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THE   SMALL   PERSON  AND   THE   SECRETAIRE. 


THE  ONE  I  KNEW  THE 
BEST  OF  ALL 


H  flfcemorp  of  tbe  /IFMnfc  of  a  Cbtlfc 


BY 

FRANCES  HODGSON  BURNETT 


ILLUSTRATED   BY 

REGINALD    B.    BIRCH 


NEW  YORK 
CHARLES    SCRIBNER'S   SONS 

1893 


COPYRIGHT,  1893,  BY 
CHARLES    SCRIBNER'S    SONS 


TROW    DIRECTORY 

PRINTING  AND  BOOKBINDING  COMPANY 
NEW   YORK 


DM5CARD 


PREFACE 

I  SHOULD  feel  a  serious  delicacy  in  present- 
ing to  the  world  a  sketch  so  autobiographical  as 
this  if  I  did  not  feel  myself  absolved  from  any 
charge  of  the  bad  taste  of  personality  by  the  fact 
that  I  believe  I  might  fairly  entitle  it "  The  Story 
of  any  Child  with  an  Imagination."  My  impres- 
sion is  that  the  Small  Person  differed  from  a  world 
of  others  only  in  as  far  as  she  had  more  or  less 
imagination  than  other  little  girls.  I  have  so  often 
wished  that  I  could  see  the  minds  of  young  things 
with  a  sight  stronger  than  that  of  very  interested 
eyes,  which  can  only  see  from  the  outside.  There 
must  be  so  many  thoughts  for  which  child  courage 
and  child  language  have  not  the  exact  words.  So, 
remembering  that  there  was  one  child  of  whom  I 
could  write  from  the  inside  point  of  view,  and 
with  certain  knowledge,  I  began  to  make  a  little 
sketch  of  the  one  I  knew  the  best  of  all.  It  was 


viii  Preface 

only  to  be  a  short  sketch  in  my  first  intention,  but 
when  I  besran  it  I  found  so  much  to  record  which 

o 

seemed  to  me  amusing  and  illustrative,  that  the 
short  sketch  became  a  long  one.  After  all,  it  was 
not  myself  about  whom  I  wras  being  diffuse,  but  a 
little  unit  of  whose  parallels  there  are  tens  of 
thousands.  The  Small  Person  is  gone  to  that  un- 
discoverable  far-away  land  where  other  Small 
Persons  have  emigrated — the  land  to  whose  re- 
gretted countries  there  wandered,  some  years  ago, 
two  little  fellows,  with  picture  faces  and  golden 
love-locks,  whom  I  have  mourned  and  longed  for 
ever  since,  and  whose  going — with  my  kisses  on 
their  little  mouths — has  left  me  forever  a  sadder 
woman,  as  all  other  mothers  are  sadder,  whatso- 
ever the  dearness  of  the  maturer  creature  left  be- 
hind to  bear  the  same  name  and  smile  with  eyes 
not  quite  the  same.  As  I  might  write  freely 
about  them,  so  I  feel  I  may  write  freely  about 
her. 

FRANCES  HODGSON  BURNETT. 

MAY,  1892. 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER  I. 


The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All, 


PAGE 

/ 


CHAPTER  II. 

The  Flower  Book  and  Testament,   . 


21 


CHAPTER  /I/. 


The  Back  Garden  of  Eden, 


PAGE 


x  Contents 

CHAPTER  IV. 
Literature  and  tbe  Doll, 44 

CHAPTER  V. 
Islington  Square, 70 

CHAPTER  VI. 
A  Confidence  Betrayed, 90 

CHAPTER   VII. 
Tbe  Secretaire, 709 

CHAPTER   VIII. 
Tbe  Party, 729 

CHAPTER  IX. 
Tbe  Wedding,         . 142 

CHAPTER  X. 
Tbe  Strange  Thing, 756 

CHAPTER  XI. 
"Mamma" — and  tbe  First  One,    .        .        .        .     ij6 


Contents  xi 


CHAPTER  XII. 


PAGE 


" Edith  Somerville" — and  Raw  Turnips,       .        .  208 

CHAPTER  XIII. 

Christopher  Columbus,  ......  228 

CHAPTER  XIV. 

The  Dry  ad  Days, 257 

CHAPTER  XV. 

"  My  Object  is  Remuneration,"     ....  286 

CHAPTER  XVI. 

And  So  She  Did, 31 3 


LIST  OF  ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

The  Small  Person  and  the  Secretaire,       .       Frontispiece 
Vignette,     ........    Contents      ix 

"  /  am  not  holding  her"  She  Said,    .         ....         8 

"  Yes"  He  Said,  "  /  should  have  to  pick  you  up  and  carry 

you  at  once  to  prison"          ......       20 


When  She  Stood  by  Her  Grandmamma's  Knee,        .         . 

"  Tha  needn't  say  nowt  about  it,"  Said  Emma,        .         .  37 

She  Confessed  Herself  to  Him,  ......  41 

As  She  Brutally   Lashed  a    Cheerfully   Hideous   Black 

Gutta-percha  Doll,      .......  jj 

"  Sitting  on  the  Lamp  Post"     ......  72 

But  the  Girl  Walked  Calmly  Before  Him,  83 

"  Is  it  a  very  new  one  ?  "  They  Asked,  98 


xiv  List  of  Illustrations 

PAGE 

The    Three   Unrestrainable  Small  Persons — in    Various 

Stages  of  Undress,       .......     7j6 

"  Will  you  dance  this  waltz  with  me?'    ....     139 

The  two  Pink  Silk  Frocks  lay  upon  the  Bed,     .         .         . 

She  put   out   Her   Hand  and   Touched  the    Unsmiling 
Cheek,  ......... 

And  She  Bent  Over  and  Kissed  Her  Round  Check,  .  . 

"  What  is  Improving,  Mamma  ?"    .         .         .         .  . 

She  Laughed  a  great  deal  as  She  was  Doing  It,       .  .     202 

"  // — why,  it  is  so  clever  /  '         .         .         .         .         .  .     206 

The  Woes  and  Raptures  of  Edith  Somerville, .         .  .     220 

The  Poor  were  Starving,  .......     2jg 

The  First  Bales  of  Cotton,         ......     242 

The  Small  Person  Looked  upon  her  with  Deference  and 

Yearning,    .........     245 

"  Good-by"  He  Said.  "  /  hope  you  will  like  America,"  .  248 
"  Oh,  dear !  Now  Fm  going  to  America,"  .  .  .  250 
{i  I  have  found  a  Pimpernel !' 259 


List  of  Illustrations  xv 


PAGE 


//  Became  one  of  her  Pleasures  to  Watch  a  Bird  Light 

upon  a  Low  Branch,  .......  271 

With  the  Little  Cat  Curled  up  in  her  Left  Arm,      .         .  288 

They  Chased  about  the    Warm,    Yellowing    Woods  like 

Wild  Things, 309 

"  Thirty-five  dollars"  He  Said,  Staring  at  Her,      .         .  324 


THE  ONE  I  KNEW  THE  BEST  OF  ALL 

A    MEMORY   OF   THE   MIND    OF   A   CHILD 

CHAPTER   I 

The  One  I  Knew   the  Best  of  All 

I  HAD  every  opportunity  for  knowing  her 
well,  at  least.  We  were  born  on  the  same  day,  we 
learned  to  toddle  about  together,  we  began  our 
earliest  observations  of  the  world  we  lived  in  at 
the  same  period,  we  made  the  same  mental  re- 
marks on  people  and  things,  and  reserved  to  our- 
selves exactly  the  same  rights  of  private  personal 
opinion. 

I  have  not  the  remotest  idea  of  what  she  looked 
like.  She  belonged  to  an  era  when  photography 
was  not  as  advanced  an  art  as  it  is  to-day,  and  no 
picture  of  her  was  ever  made.  It  is  a  well-authen- 
ticated fact  that  she  was  auburn-haired  and  rosy, 
and  I  can  testify  that  she  was  curly,  because  one 
of  my  earliest  recollections  of  her  emotions  is  a 
memory  of  the  momentarily  maddening  effect  of  a 
sharp,  stinging  jerk  of  the  comb  when  the  nurse 


2         The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

was  absent-minded  or  maladroit.  That  she  was 
also  a  plump  little  person  I  am  led  to  believe,  in 
consequence  of  the  well-known  joke  of  a  ribald  boy 
cousin  and  a  disrespectful  brother,  who  averred 
that  when  she  fell  she  "  bounced  "  like  an  india- 
rubber  ball.  For  the  rest,  I  do  not  remember 
what  the  looking-glass  reflected  back  at  her, 
though  I  must  have  seen  it.  It  might,  conse- 
quently, be  argued  that  on  such  occasions  there 
were  so  many  serious  and  interesting  problems  to 
be  attended  to  that  a  reflection  in  the  looking- 
glass  was  an  unimportant  detail. 

In  those  early  days  I  did  not  find  her  personally 
interesting — in  fact,  I  do  not  remember  regarding 
her  as  a  personality  at  all.  It  was  the  people  about 
her,  the  things  she  saw,  the  events  which  made  up 
her  small  existence,  which  were  absorbing,  excit- 
ing, and  of  the  most  vital  and  terrible  importance 
sometimes.  It  was  not  until  I  had  children  of  my 
own,  and  had  watched  their  small  individualities 
forming  themselves,  their  large  imaginations  giv- 
ing proportions  and  values  to  things,  that  I  began 
to  remember  her  as  a  little  Person ;  and  in  going 
back  into  her  past  and  reflecting  on  certain  details 
of  it  and  their  curious  effects  upon  her,  I  found 
interest  in  her  and  instruction,  and  the  most 
serious  cause  for  tender  deep  reflection  on  her  as 
a  thing  touching  on  that  strange,  awful  problem 
of  a  little  soul  standing  in  its  newness  in  the  great 


The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All       3 

busy,  tragic  world  of  life,  touched  for  the  first 
time  by  everything  that  passes  it,  and  never 
touched  without  some  sign  of  the  contact  being 
left  upon  it. 

What  I  remember  most  clearly  and  feel  most 
serious  is  one  thing  above  all :  it  is  that  I  have  no 
memory  of  any  time  so  early  in  her  life  that  she 
was  not  a  distinct  little  individual.  Of  the  time 
when  she  was  not  old  enough  to  formulate  opi- 
nions quite  clearly  to  herself  I  have  no  recollec- 
tion, and  I  can  remember  distinctly  events  which 
happened  before  she  was  three  years  old.  The 
first  incident  which  appears  to  me  as  being  inter- 
esting, as  an  illustration  of  what  a  baby  mind  is 
doing,  occurred  a  week  or  so  after  the  birth  of 

• 

her  sister,  who  was  two  years  younger  than  her- 
self. It  is  so  natural,  so  almost  inevitable,  that 
even  the  most  child-loving  among  us  should  find 
it  difficult  to  realize  constantly  that  a  mite  of 
three  or  four,  tumbling  about,  playing  with  india- 
rubber  dogs  and  with  difficulty  restrained  from 
sucking  the  paint  off  Noah,  Shem,  Ham,  and  Ja- 
phet,  not  to  mention  the  animals,  is  a  person,  and 
that  this  person  is  ten  thousand  times  more  sensi- 
tive to  impression  than  one's  self,  and  that  hearing 
and  seeing  one,  this  person,  though  he  or  she  may 
not  really  understand,  will  be  likely,  in  intervals 
of  innocent  destruction  of  small  portable  articles, 
to  search  diligently  in  infant  mental  space  until 


4         The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

he  or  she  has  found  an  explanation  of  affairs,  to 
be  pigeon-holed  for  future  reference.  And  yet  I 
can  most  solemnly  declare  that  such  was  the 
earliest  habit  of  that "  One  I  knew  the  best  of  all." 

One  takes  a  fat,  comfortable  little  body  on  one's 
knee  and  begins  to  tell  it  a  story  about  "  a  fairy ' 
or  "a  doggie  "  or  "a  pussy."  And  the  moment 
the  story  begins  the  questions  begin  also.  And 
with  my  recollection  of  the  intense  little  Bogie 
whom  I  knew  so  well  and  who  certainly  must 
have  been  a  most  e very-day-looking  little  person- 
age, giving  no  outward  warning  of  preternatural 
alertness  and  tragic  earnestness,  my  memory  leads 
me  to  think  that  indeed  it  is  not  a  trifle  to  be  suf- 
ficiently upright  and  intelligent  to  answer  these 
questions  exactly  as  one  should.  This  first  inci- 
dent, which  seems  to  me  to  denote  how  early  a 
tiny  mind  goes  through  distinct  processes  of 
thought,  is  a  very  clear  memory  to  me. 

I  see  a  comfortable  English  bedroom,  such  as 
would  to-day  seem  old-fashioned  without  being 
ancient  enough  to  be  picturesque.  I  remember 
no  articles  of  furniture  in  the  room  but  a  rather 
heavy  four-posted  carved  mahogany  bed,  hung 
with  crimson  damask,  ornamented  with  heavy 
fringe  and  big  cords  and  tassels,  a  chair  by  this 
bedside — I  think  it  was  an  arm-chair  covered 
with  chintz — and  a  footstool.  This  was  called  "  a 
buffet,"  and  rhymed  with  Miss  Muffet  eating  her 


The   One  I  Kneiv  the  Best  of  All        5 

curds  and  whey.     In  England  Miss  Muffet  sat  on 
"  a  buffet,"  on  the  blood-curdling  occasion  when 

"  There  came  a  big  spider 
And  sat  down  beside  her 
And  frightened  Miss  Muffet  away." 

This  buffet  was  placed  upon  the  hearth-rug  be- 
fore the  fire,  and  a  very  small  being  was  sitting 
upon  it,  very  conscious,  in  a  quiet  way,  of  her 
mamma  lying  on  the  crimson-draped  bed,  and  the; 
lady  friend  who  was  sitting  in  the  chair  by  her, 
discussing  their  respective  new  babies.  But  most 
of  all  was  the  Small  Person  on  the  buffet  conscious 
of  their  own  personal  new  baby  who  was  being 
taken  care  of  by  a  nurse  just  near  her. 

Perhaps  the  interest  of  such  recollections  is 
somewhat  added  to  by  the  fact  that  one  can  only 
recall  them  by  episodes,  and  that  the  episodes 
seem  to  appear  without  any  future  or  any  past. 
Not  the  faintest  shadow  of  the  new  baby  seems 
to  appear  upon  the  camera,  up  to  this  moment, 
of  the  buffet,  and  I  have  no  remembrance  of  any 
mental  process  which  led  to  the  Small  Person's 
wishing  to  hold  it  on  her  knee.  Perhaps  it  was 
a  sudden  inspiration. 

But  she  did  wish  to  hold  it,  and  notified  as 
much,  apparently  with  sufficient  clearness,  to  the 
nurse. 

The   shadow  of   the    nurse    has   no    name   and 


6         The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

no  special  individuality.  She  was  only  a  figure 
known  as  "  The  Nurse." 

But  she  impresses  me  in  these  days  as  having 
been  quite  definite  in  her  idea  that  Persons  not 
yet  three  years  old  were  not  to  be  trusted  en- 
tirely with  the  new-born,  however  excellent  their 
intentions  were. 

How  the  Small  Person  expressed  herself  in 
those  days  I  do  not  know  at  all.  Before  three 
years  articulation  is  not  generally  perfect,  but  if 
hers  was  not  I  know  she  was  entirely  unaware 
of  her  inadequacies.  She  thought  she  spoke  just 
as  other  people  did,  and  I  never  remember  her 
pronunciation  being  corrected.  I  can  recall, 
with  perfect  distinctness,  however,  what  she 
tJwught  she  expressed  and  what  her  hearers 
seemed  to  understand  her  to  say. 

It  was  in  effect  something  like  this : 

"  I  want  to  hold  the  New  Baby  on  my  knee. ' 

"  You  are  too  little,"  said  the  Nurse. 

"  No,  I  am  not  too  little.  The  New  Baby  is 
little,  and  I  am  on  the  buffet,  and  I  will  hold  her 
tight  if  you  will  put  her  on  my  knee." 

"  She  would  slip  off,  I  am  afraid." 

"  No,  I  will  hold  her  tight  with  both  arms,  just 
like  you  do.  Please  give  her  to  me."  And  the 
Small  Person  spread  her  small  knees. 

I  don't  know  how  long  the  discussion  lasted, 
but  the  Nurse  was  a  good-natured  person,  and  at 


The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All        7 

last  she  knelt  down  upon  the  hearth-rug  by  the 
buffet,  holding  the  white-robed  new  baby  in  her 
arms,  and  amiably  pretended  to  place  it  in  the 
short  arms  and  on  the  tiny  knees,  while  she  was 
really  supporting  it  herself. 

"  There,"  she  said.  "  Now  she  is  on  your 
knee."  She  thought  she  had  made  it  all  right, 
but  she  was  gravely  mistaken. 

"  But  I  want  to  hold  her  myself!'  said  the  Small 
Person. 

"  You  are  holding  her,"  answered  the  Nurse, 
cheerfully.  "  What  a  big  girl  to  be  holding  the 
New  Baby  just  like  a  grown-up  lady." 

The  Small  Person  looked  at  her  with  serious 
candor. 

"  I  am  not  holding  her,"  she  said.  "  You  are 
holding  her." 

That  the  episode  ended  without  the  Small  Per- 
son either  having  held  the  New  Baby,  or  being 
deceived  into  fancying  she  held  it,  is  as  clear  a 
memory  to  me  as  if  it  had  occurred  yesterday  ; 
and  the  point  of  the  incident  is  that  after  all  the 
years  that  have  passed  I  remember  with  equal 
distinctness  the  thoughts  which  were  in  the  Small 
Person's  mind  as  she  looked  at  the  Nurse  and 
summed  the  matter  up,  while  the  woman  imag- 
ined she  was  a  baby  not  capable  of  thinking  at  all. 

It  has  always  interested  me  to  recall  this  be- 
cause it  was  so  long  ago,  and  while  it  has  not 


8         The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

faded  out  at  all,  and  I  see  the  mental  attitude  as 
definitely  as  I  see  the  child  and  the  four-post  bed 
with  its  hangings,  I  recognize  that  she  was  too 


\ 


young  to  have  had  in  her  vocabulary  the  words 
to  put  her  thoughts  and  mental  arguments  into- 
and  yet  they  were  there,  as  thoughts  and  mental 


The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All       9 

arguments  are  there  to-day — and  after  these  many 
years  I  can  write  them  in  adult  words  without 
the  slightest  difficulty.  I  should  like  to  have  a 
picture  of  her  eyes  and  the  expression  of  her  baby 
face  as  she  looked  at  the  nurse  and  thought  these 
things,  but  perhaps  her  looks  w^ere  as  inarticulate 
as  her  speech. 

"  I  am  very  little,"  she  thought.  "  I  am  so  little 
that  you  think  I  do  not  know  that  you  are  pre- 
tending that  I  am  holding  the  new  baby,  while 
really  it  is  you  who  are  holding  it.  But  I  do  know. 
I  know  it  as  well  as  you,  though  I  am  so  little 
and  you  are  so  big  that  you  always  hold  babies. 
But  I  cannot  make  you  understand  that,  so  it  is 
no  use  talking.  I  want  the  baby,  but  you  think  I 
shalMet  it  fall.  I  am  sure  I  shall  not.  But  you 
are  a  grown-up  person  and  I  am  a  little  child,  and 
the  big  people  can  always  have  their  own  way." 

I  do  not  remember  any  rebellion  against  an  idea 
of  injustice.  All  that  comes  back  to  me  in  the 
form  of  a  mental  attitude  is  a  perfect  realization 
of  the  immense  fact  that  people  who  were  grown 
up  could  do  what  they  chose,  and  that  there  was 
no  appeal  against  their  omnipotence. 

It  may  be  that  this  line  of  thought  was  an  in- 
fant indication  of  a  nature  which  developed  later 
as  one  of  its  chief  characteristics,  a  habit  of  ad- 
justing itself  silently  to  the  inevitable,  which  was 
frequently  considered  to  represent  indifference, 


io       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

but  which  merely  evolved  itself  from  private  con- 
clusions arrived  at  through  a  private  realization  of 
the  utter  uselessness  of  struggle  against  the  Fixed. 
The  same  curiosity  as  to  the  method  in  which 
the  thoughts  expressed  themselves  to  the  small 
mind  devours  me  when  I  recall  the  remainder  of 
the  bedroom  episode,  or  rather  an  incident  of  the 


same  morning. 


The  lady  visitor  who  sat  in  the  chair  was  a 
neighbor,  and  she  also  was  the  proprietor  of  a 
new  baby,  though  her  baby  was  a  few  weeks 
older  than  the  very  new  one  the  Nurse  held. 

She  was  the  young  mother  of  two  or  three 
children,  and  had  a  pretty  sociable  manner  toward 
tiny  things.  The  next  thing  I  see  is  that  the 
Small  Person  had  been  called  up  to  her  and  stood 
by  the  bed  in  an  attitude  of  modest  decorum,  be- 
ing questioned  and  talked  to. 

I  have  no  doubt  she  was  asked  how  she  liked 
the  New  Baby,  but  I  do  not  remember  that  or 
anything  but  the  serious  situation  which  arose 
as  the  result  of  one  of  the  questions.  It  was  the 
first  social  difficulty  of  the  Small  Person — the  first 
confronting  of  the  overwhelming  problem  of  how 
to  adjust  perfect  truth  to  perfect  politeness. 

Language  seems  required  to  mentally  confront 
this  problem  and  try  to  settle  it,  and  the  Small 
Person  cannot  have  had  words,  yet  it  is  certain 
that  she  confronted  and  wrestled  with  it. 


The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All      1 1 

"  And  what  is  your  New  Baby's  name  to  be  ? " 
the  lady  asked. 

"  Edith,"  was  the  answer. 

"  That  is  a  pretty  name,"  said  the  lady.  "  I 
have  a  new  baby,  and  I  have  called  it  Eleanor. 
Is  not  that  a  pretty  name  ? ' 

In  this  manner  it  was — simple  as  it  may  seem- 
that  the  awful  problem  presented  itself.  That  it 
seemed  awful — actually  almost  unbearable — is  an 
illustration  of  the  strange,  touching  sensitiveness 
of  the  new-born  butterfly  soul  just  emerged  from 
its  chrysalis- -the  impressionable  sensitiveness 
which  it  seems  so  tragic  that  we  do  not  always 
remember^ 

For  some  reason — it  would  be  impossible  to  tell 
what- -the  Small  Person  did  not  think  Eleanor 
was  a  pretty  name.  On  strictly  searching  the  in- 
nermost recesses  of  her  diminutive  mentality  she 
found  that  she  could  not  think  it  a  pretty  name. 
She  tried,  as  if  by  muscular  effort,  and  could  not. 
She  thought  it  was  an  ugly  name ;  that  was  the 
anguish  of  it.  And  here  was  a  lady,  a  nice  lady,  a 
friend  with  whom  her  own  mamma  took  tea,  a 
kind  lady,  who  had  had  the  calamity  to  have  her 
own  newest  baby  christened  by  an  ugly  name. 
How  could  anyone  be  rude  and  hard-hearted 
enough  to  tell  her  what  she  had  done — that  her 
new  baby  would  always  have  to  be  called  some- 
thing ugly  ?  She  positively  quaked  with  mis- 


12       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

ery.  She  stood  quite  still  and  looked  at  the  poor 
nice  lady  helplessly  without  speaking.  The  lady 
probably  thought  she  was  shy,  or  too  little  to 
answer  readily  or  really  have  any  opinion  on  the 
subject  of  names.  Mistaken  lady  :  how  mistaken, 
I  can  remember.  The  Small  Person  was  wres- 
tling with  her  first  society  problem,  and  trying  to 
decide  what  she  must  do  with  it. 

"  Don't  you  think  it  is  a  pretty  name  ?  '  the 
visitor  went  on,  in  a  petting,  coaxing  voice,  pos- 
sibly with  a  view  to  encouraging  her.  "  Don't 
you  like  it  ?  ' 

The  Small  Person  looked  at  her  with  yearning 
eyes.  She  could  not  say  "  No  '  blankly.  Even 
then  there  lurked  in  her  system  the  seeds  of  a 
feeling  which,  being  founded  on  a  friendly  wish 
to  be  humane  which  is  a  virtue  at  the  outset, 
has  increased  with  years,  until  it  has  become  a 
weakness  which  is  a  vice.  She  could  not  say  a 
thing  she  did  not  mean,  but  she  could  not  say 
brutally  the  unpleasant  thing  she  did  mean.  She 
ended  with  a  pathetic  compromise. 

"  I  don't  think,"  she  faltered—  "  I  don't  think— 
it  is — as  pretty — as  Edith." 

And  then  the  grown-up  people  laughed  gayly 
at  her  as  if  she  were  an  amusing  little  thing, 
and  she  was  kissed  and  cuddled  and  petted. 
And  nobody  suspected  she  had  been  thinking 
anything  at  all,  any  more  than  they  imagined  that 


The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All      13 

she  had  been  translating  their  remarks  into 
ancient  Greek.  I  have  a  vivid  imagination  as 
regards  children,  but  if  I  had  been  inventing  a 
story  of  a  child,  it  would  not  have  occurred  to 
me  to  imagine  such  a  mental  episode  in  such  a 
very  tiny  person.  But  the  vividness  of  my  recol- 
lection of  this  thing  has  been  a  source  of  interest 
and  amusement  to  me  through  so  many  mature 
years  that  I  feel  it  has  a  certain  significance  as 
impressing  upon  one's  mind  a  usually  unrealized 
fact. 

When  she  was  about  four  years  old  a  strange 
and  serious  event  happened  in  the  household 
of  the  Small  Person,  an  event  which  might  have 
made  a  deep  and  awesome  impression  on  her 
but  for  two  facts.  As  it  was,  a  deep  impression 
was  made,  but  its  effect  was  not  of  awfulness,  but 
of  unexplainable  mystery.  The  thing  which  hap- 
pened was  that  the  father  of  the  Small  Person 
died.  As  she  belonged  to  the  period  of  Nurses 
and  the  Nursery  she  did  not  feel  very  familiar 
with  him,  and  did  not  see  him  very  often. 
"  Papa,"  in  her  mind,  was  represented  by  a  gentle- 
man who  had  curling  brown  hair  and  who  laughed 
and  said  affectionately  funny  things.  These  things 
gave  her  the  impression  of  his  being  a  most  agree- 
able relative,  but  she  did  not  know  that  the  funny 
things  were  the  jocular  remarks  with  which  good- 
natured  maturity  generally  salutes  tender  years. 


14       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

He  was  intimately  connected  with  jokes  about 
cakes  kept  in  the  dining-room  sideboard,  and  with 
amiable  witticisms  about  certain  very  tiny  glasses 
of  sherry  in  which  she  and  her  brothers  had  drunk 
his  health  and  her  mamma's,  standing  by  the  table 
after  dinner,  when  there  were  nuts  and  other 
fruits  adorning  it.  These  tiny  glasses,  which 
must  really  have  been  liqueur  glasses,  she  thought 
had  been  made  specially  small  for  the  accommo- 
dation of  persons  from  the  Nursery. 

When  "  papa  "  became  ill  the  Nursery  was  evi- 
dently kept  kindly  and  wisely  in  ignorance  of  his 
danger.  The  Small  Person's  first  knowledge  of 
it  seemed  to  reach  her  through  an  interesting  ad- 
venture. She  and  her  brothers  and  the  New 
Baby,  who  by  this  time  was  quite  an  old  baby, 
were  taken  away  from  home.  In  a  very  pretty 
countrified  Public  Park  not  far  away  from  where 
she  lived  there  was  a  house  where  people  could 
stay  and  be  made  comfortable.  The  Park  still  ex- 
ists, but  I  think  the  house  has  been  added  to  and 
made  into  a  museum.  At  that  time  it  appeared 
to  an  infant  imagination  a  very  splendid  and  awe- 
inspiring  mansion.  It  seemed  very  wonderful 
indeed  to  live  in  a  house  in  the  Park  where 
one  was  only  admitted  usually  under  the  care  of 
Nurses  who  took  one  to  walk.  The  park  seemed 
to  become  one's  own  private  garden,  the  Refresh- 
ment Room  containing  the  buns  almost  part  of 


The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All      15 

one's  private  establishment,  and  the  Policemen, 
after  one's  first  awe  of  them  was  modified,  to  be- 
come almost  mortal  men. 

It  was  a  Policeman  who  is  the  chief  feature  of 
this  period.  He  must  have  been  an  amiable  Police- 
man. I  have  no  doubt  he  was  quite  a  fatherly 
Policeman,  but  the  agonies  of  terror  the  One  I 
knew  the  best  of  all  passed  through  in  conse- 
quence of  his  disposition  to  treat  her  as  a  joke, 
are  something  never  to  be  forgotten. 

I  can  see  now  from  afar  that  she  was  a  little 
person  of  the  most  law-abiding  tendencies.  I  can 
never  remember  her  feeling  the  slightest  inclina- 
tion to  break  a  known  law  of  any  kind.  Her  in- 
ward desire  was  to  be  a  good  child.  Without 
actually  formulating  the  idea,  she  had  a  standard 
of  her  own.  She  did  not  want  to  be  "  naughty," 
she  did  not  want  to  be  scolded,  she  was  peace- 
loving  and  pleasure-loving,  two  things  not  com- 
patible with  insubordination.  When  she  was 
"  naughty,"  it  was  because  what  seemed  to  her  in- 
justice and  outrage  roused  her  to  fury.  She  had 
occasional  furies,  but  went  no  further. 

When  she  was  told  that  there  were  pieces  of 
grass  on  which  she  must  not  walk,  and  that  on 
the  little  boards  adorning  their  borders  the  black 
letters  written  said,  "  Trespassers  will  be  prose- 
cuted," she  would  not  for  worlds  have  set  her 
foot  upon  the  green,  even  though  she  did  not 


1 6       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

know  what  u  prosecuted  '  meant.  But  when  she 
discovered  that  the  Park  Policemen  who  walked 
up  and  down  in  stately  solitude  were  placed  by 
certain  awful  authorities  to  "  take  up '  anybody 
who  trespassed,  the  dread  that  she  might  inadver- 
tently trespass  some  day  and  be  "  taken  up ' 
caused  her  blood  to  turn  cold. 

What  an  irate  Policeman,  rendered  furious  by 
an  outraged  law,  represented  to  her  tender  mind 
I  cannot  quite  clearly  define,  but  I  am  certain  that 
a  Policeman  seemed  an  omnipotent  power,  Avith 
whom  the  boldest  would  not  dream  of  trifling, 
and  the  sole  object  of  whose  majestic  existence 
was  to  bring  to  swift,  unerring  justice  the  juve- 
nile law-breakers  who  in  the  madness  of  their 
youth  drew  upon  themselves  the  eagle  glance  of 
his  wrath,  the  awful  punishment  of  justice  being 
to  be  torn  shrieking  from  one's  Mamma  and  in- 
carcerated for  life  in  a  gloomy  dungeon  in  the 
bowels  of  the  earth.  This  was  what  "  Prison ' 
and  being  "  taken  up"  meant. 

It  may  be  imagined,  then,  with  what  reverent 
awe  she  regarded  this  supernatural  being  from 
afar,  clinging  to  her  Nurse's  skirts  with  positively 
bated  breath  when  he  appeared ;  how  ostenta- 
tiously she  avoided  the  grass  which  must  not  be 
trodden  upon  ;  how  she  was  filled  with  mingled 
terror  and  gratitude  when  she  discovered  that  he 

o 

even  descended  from  his  celestial  heights  to  speak 


The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All      17 

to  Nurses,  actually  in  a  jocular  manner  and  with 
no  air  of  secreting  an  intention  of  pouncing  upon 
their  charges  and  "  taking  them  up  '  in  the  very 
wantonness  of  power. 

I  do  not  know  through  what  means  she  reached 
the  point  of  being  sufficiently  intimate  with  a 
Policeman  to  exchange  respectful  greetings  with 
him  and  even  to  indulge  in  timorous  conversation. 
The  process  must  have  been  a  very  gradual  one 
and  much  assisted  by  friendly  and  mild  advances 
from  the  Policeman  himself.  I  only  know  it  came 
about,  and  this  I  know  through  a  recollection  of 
a  certain  eventful  morning. 

It  was  a  beautiful  morning,  so  beautiful  that 
even  a  Policeman  might  have  been  softened  by 
it.  The  grass  which  must  not  be  walked  upon 
was  freshest  green,  the  beds  of  flowers  upon 
it  were  all  in  bloom.  Perhaps  the  brightness  of 
the  sunshine  and  the  friendliness  of  nature  em- 
boldened the  Small  Person  and  gave  her  giant 
strength. 

How  she  got  there  I  do  not  know,  but  she  was 
sitting  on  one  of  the  Park  benches  at  the  edge  of 
the  grass,  and  a  Policeman — a  real,  august  Police- 
man— was  sitting  beside  her. 

Perhaps  her  Nurse  had  put  her  there  for  a  mo- 
ment and  left  her  under  the  friendly  official's  care. 
But  I  do  not  know.  I  only  know  she  was  there, 
and  so  was  he,  and  he  was  doing  nothing  alarm- 

2 


1 8       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

ing.  The  seat  was  one  of  those  which  have  only 
one  piece  of  wood  for  a  back  and  she  was  so  little 
that  her  short  legs  stuck  out  straight  before  her, 
confronting  her  with  short  socks  and  plump  pink 
calf  and  small  "  ankle-strap '  shoes,  while  her 
head  was  not  high  enough  to  rest  itself  against 
the  back,  even  if  it  had  wished  to. 

It  was  this  last  fact  which  suggested  to  her 
mind  the  possibility  of  a  catastrophe  so  harrow- 
ing that  mere  mental  anguish  forced  her  to  ask 
questions  even  from  a  minion  of  the  law.  She 
looked  at  him  and  opened  her  lips  half  a  dozen 
times  before  she  dared  to  speak,  but  the  words 
came  forth  at  last : 

"  If  anyone  treads  on  the  grass  must  you  take 
them  up  ?  ' 

"  Yes,  I  must."  There  is  no  doubt  but  that  the 
innocent  fellow  thought  her  and  her  question  a 
good  joke. 

"  Would  you  have  to  take  anyone  up  if  they 
went  on  the  grass  ?  ' 

"  Yes,"  with  an  air  of  much  official  sternness. 
"Anyone" 

She  panted  a  little  and  looked  at  him  appeal- 
ingly.  "  Would  you  have  to  take  me  up  if  I  went 
on  it  ?  '  Possibly  she  hoped  for  leniency  because 
he  evidently  did  not  object  to  her  Nurse,  and  she 
felt  that  such  relationship  might  have  a  softening 
influence. 


The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All      19 

"  Yes,"  he  said,  "  I  should  have  to  take  you  to 
prison." 

"  But,"  she  faltered,  "  but  if  I  couldn't  help  it- 
if  I  didn't  go  on  it  on  purpose." 

"  You'd  have  to  be  taken  to  prison  if  you  went 
on  it,"  he  said.  "  You  couldn't  go  on  it  without 
knowing  it." 

She  turned  and  looked  at  the  back  of  the  seat, 
which  was  too  high  for  her  head  to  reach,  and 
which  consequently  left  no  support  behind  her 
exceeding  smallness. 

"  But — but,"  she  said,  "  I  am  so  little  I  might 
fall  through  the  back  of  this  seat.  If  I  was  to  fall 
through  on  to  the  grass  should  you  take  me  to 
prison  ?  ' 

What  dulness  of  his  kindly  nature — I  feel  sure 
he  was  not  an  unkindly  fellow — blinded  the 
Policeman  to  the  terror  and  consternation  which 
must  in  some  degree  have  expressed  themselves 
on  her  tiny  face,  I  do  not  understand,  but  he 
evidently  saw  nothing  of  them.  I  do  not  remem- 
ber what  his  face  looked  like,  only  that  it  did  not 
wear  the  ferocity  which  would  have  accorded 
with  his  awful  words. 

"  Yes,"  he  said,  "  I  should  have  to  pick  you  up 
and  carry  you  at  once  to  prison." 

She  must  have  turned  pale  ;  but  that  she  sat 
still  without  further  comment,  that  she  did  not 
burst  into  frantic  howls  of  despair,  causes  one  to 


2O       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 


feel  that  even  in  those  early  days  she  was 
governed  by  some  rudimentary  sense  of  dignity 
and  resignation  to  fate,  for  as  she  sat  there,  the 
short  legs  in  socks  and 
small  black  "  ankle-straps  " 
confronting  her,  the  mar- 
row \vas  dissolving  in  her 
infant  bones. 

There    is    doubtless 
suggestion  as  to  the 
limits     and    exag- 
gerations of  the 


tender  mind  in  the  fact  that  this  incident  was  an 
awful  one  to  her  and  caused  her  to  waken  in 
her  bed  at  night  and  quake  with  horror,  while 


The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All      21 

the  later  episode  of  her  hearing  that  "  Poor  Papa ' 
had  died  seemed  only  to  be  a  thing-  of  mystery  of 
which  there  was  so  little  explanation  that  it  was 
not  terrible.  This  was  without  doubt  because,  to 
a  very  young  child's  mind,  death  is  an  idea  too 
vague  to  grasp. 

There  came  a  day  when  someone  carried  her 
into  the  bedroom  where  the  crimson-draped  four- 
post  bed  was,  and  standing  by  its  side  held  her  in 
her  arms  that  she  might  look  down  at  Papa  lying 
quite  still  upon  the  pillow.  She  only  thought  he 
looked  as  if  he  were  asleep,  though  someone  said  : 
"  Papa  has  gone  to  Heaven,"  and  she  was  not 
frightened,  and  looked  down  with  quiet  interest 
and  respect.  A  few  years  later  the  sight  of  a 
child  of  her  own  age  or  near  it,  lying  in  his  coffin, 
brought  to  her  young  being  an  awed  realization 
of  death,  whose  anguished  intensity  has  never 
wholly  repeated  itself  ;  but  being  held  up  in  kind 
arms  to  look  down  at  "  Poor  Papa,"  she  only 
gazed  without  comprehension  and  without  fear. 


CHAPTER   II 

The  Little  Flower  Book  and  the  Brown   Testament 

I  DO  not  remember  the  process  by  which  she 
learned  to  read  or  how  long  a  time  it  took  her. 
There  was  a  time  when  she  sat  on  a  buffet  before 
the  Nursery  fire — which  was  guarded  by  a  tall 
wire  fender  with  a  brass  top — and  with  the  as- 
sistance of  an  accomplished  elder  brother  a  few 
years  her  senior,  seriously  and  carefully  picked 
out  with  a  short,  fat  finger  the  capital  letters 
adorning  the  advertisement  column  of  a  news- 

C3 

paper. 

But  from  this  time  my  memory  makes  a  leap 
over  all  detail  until  an  occasion  when  she  stood 
by  her  Grandmamma's  knee  by  this  same  tall 
Nursery  fender  and  read  out  slowly  and  with 
dignity  the  first  verse  of  the  second  chapter  of 
Matthew  in  a  short,  broad,  little  speckled  brown 
Testament  with  large  print. 

"  When — Jesus-  -was — born — in — Bethlehem- 
of  Judea,"  she  read,  but  it  is  only  this  first  verse  I 
remember. 

Either  just  before  or  just  after  the  accomplish- 
ing of  this  feat  she  heard  that  she  was  three  years 


T/ie  Flower  Book  and   Testament       23 

old.  Possibly  this  fact  was  mentioned  as  notable 
in  connection  with  the  reading,  but  to  her  it  was  a 
fact  notable  principally  because  it  was  the  first 


time  she  remembered  hearing  that  she  was  any 
age  at  all  and  that  birthdays  were  a  feature  of 
human  existence. 

But  though  the  culminating  point  of  the  learn- 


24       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

ing  to  read  was  the  Brown  Testament,  the  process 
of  acquiring1  the  accomplishment  must  have  had 
much  to  do  with  the  "  Little  Flower  Book." 

In  a  life  founded  and  formed  upon  books,  one 
naturally  looks  back  with  affection  to  the  first 
book  one  possessed.  The  one  known  as  the  "  Lit- 
tle Flower  Book'  was  the  first  in  the  existence  of 
the  One  I  knew  the  best  of  all. 

No  other  book  ever  had  such  fascinations,  none 
ever  contained  such  marvellous  suggestions  of 
beauty  and  story  and  adventure.  And  yet  it  was 
only  a  little  book  out  of  which  one  learned  one's 
alphabet. 

But  it  was  so  beautiful.  One  could  sit  on  a  buf- 
fet and  pore  over  the  pages  of  it  for  hours  and 
thrill  with  wonder  and  delight  over  the  little  pict- 
ure which  illustrated  the  fact  that  A  stood  for 
Apple-blossom,  C  for  Carnation,  and  R  for  Rose. 
What  would  I  not  give  to  see  those  pictures  now. 
But  I  could  not  see  them  now  as  the  Small  Person 
saw  them  then.  I  only  wish  I  could.  Such 
lovely  pictures !  So  like  real  flowers !  As  one 
looked  at  each  one  of  them  there  grew  before 
one's  eyes  the  whole  garden  that  surrounded  it- 
the  very  astral  body  of  the  beauty  of  it. 

It  was  rather  like  the  Brown  Testament  in  form. 
It  was  short  and  broad,  and  its  type  was  large 
and  clear.  The  short  page  was  divided  in  two ; 
the  upper  half  was  filled  with  an  oblong  black 


The  Flower  Book  and   Testament       25 

background,  on  which  there  was  a  flower,  and  the 
lower  half  with  four  lines  of  rhyme  beginning 
with  the  letter  which  was  the  one  that  "  stood 
for "  the  flower.  The  black  background  was  an 
inspiration,  it  made  the  flower  so  beautiful.  I  do 
not  remember  any  of  the  rhymes,  though  I  have  a 
vague  impression  that  they  usually  treated  of 
some  moral  attribute  which  the  flower  was  sup- 
posed to  figuratively  represent.  In  the  days  when 
the  Small  Person  was  a  child,  morals  were  never 
lost  sight  of ;  no  well-regulated  person  ever  men- 
tioned the  Poppy,  in  writing  for  youth,  without 
calling  it  "flaunting5  or  " gaudy;'  the  Violet, 
without  laying  stress  on  its  "  modesty  ;  "  the  Rose, 
without  calling  attention  to  its  "  sweetness,"  and 
daring  indeed  would  have  been  the  individual 
who  would  have  referred  to  the  Bee  without  call- 
ing him  "  busy."  Somehow  one  had  the  feeling 
that  the  Poppy  was  deliberately  scarlet  from  im- 
pudence, that  the  Violet  stayed  up  all  night,  as  it 
were,  to  be  modest,  that  the  Rose  had  invented 
her  own  sweetness,  and  that  the  Bee  would  rather 
perish  than  be  an  "idle  butterfly"  and  not  spend 
every  moment  "  improving  each  shining  hour." 
But  we  stood  it  very  well.  Nobody  repined,  but 
I  think  one  rather  had  a  feeling  of  having  been 
born  an  innately  vicious  little  person  who  needed 
laboring  with  constantly  that  one  might  be  made 
merely  endurable. 


26       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

It  never  for  an  instant  occurred  to  the  Small 
Person  to  resent  the  moral  attributes  of  the  flow- 
ers. She  was  quite  resigned  to  them,  though  my 
impression  is  that  she  dwelt  on  them  less  fondly 
than  on  the  fact  that  the  rose  and  her  alphabetical 
companions  were  such  visions  of  beauty  against 
their  oblong  background  of  black. 

The  appearing  of  the  Flower  Book  on  the  hori- 
zon was  an  event  in  itself.  Somehow  the  Small 
Person  had  become  devoured  by  a  desire  to  pos- 
sess a  book  and  know  how  to  read  it.  She  was 
the  fortunate  owner  of  a  delightful  and  ideal 
Grandmamma — not  a  modern  grandmamma,  but 
one  who  might  be  called  a  comparatively  "  early 
English  '  grandmamma.  She  was  stately  but 
benevolent ;  she  had  silver-white  hair,  wore  a  cap 
with  a  full  white  net  border,  and  carried  in  her 
pocket  an  antique  silver  snuff-box,  not  used  as  a 
snuff-box,  but  as  a  receptacle  for  what  was  known 
in  that  locality  as  "  sweeties,"  one  of  which  being 
bestowed  with  ceremony  was  regarded  as  a  re- 
ward for  all  nursery  virtues  and  a  panacea  for  all 
earthly  ills.  She  was  bounteous  and  sympathetic, 
and  desires  might  hopefully  be  confided  to  her. 
Perhaps  this  very  early  craving  for  literature 
amused  her,  perhaps  it  puzzled  her  a  little.  I  re- 
member that  a  suggestion  was  tentatively  made 
by  her  that  perhaps  a  doll  would  finally  be  found 
preferable  to  a  book,  but  it  was  strenuously  de- 


The  Flower  Book  and   Testament       27 

clared  by  the  Small  Person  that  a  book,  and  only 
a  book,  would  satisfy  her  impassioned  cravings. 
A  curious  feature  of  the  matter  is  that,  though 
dolls  at  a  later  period  were  the  joy  and  the 
greater  part  of  the  existence  of  the  Small  Person, 
during  her  very  early  years  I  have  absolutely  no 
recollection  of  a  feeling  for  any  doll,  or  indeed  a 
memory  of  any  dolls  existing  for  her. 

So  she  was  taken  herself  to  buy  the  book.  It 
was  a  beautiful  and  solemn  pilgrimage.  Reason 
suggests  that  it  was  not  a  long  one,  in  considera- 
tion for  her  tiny  and  brief  legs,  but  to  her  it 
seemed  to  be  a  journey  of  great  length — princi- 
pally past  wastes  of  suburban  brick-fields,  which 
for  some  reason  seemed  romantic  and  interesting 
to  her,  and  it  ended  in  a  tiny  shop  on  a  sort  of 
country  road.  I  do  not  see  the  inside  of  the  shop, 
only  the  outside,  which  had  one  small  window, 
with  toys  and  sweet  things  in  glass  jars.  Per- 
haps the  Small  Person  was  left  outside  to  survey 
these  glories.  This  would  seem  not  improbable, 
as  there  remains  no  memory  of  the  interior.  But 
there  the  Flower  Book  was  bought  (I  wonder  if 
it  really  cost  more  than  sixpence)  ;  from  there  it 
was  carried  home  under  her  arm,  I  feel  sure. 
Where  it  went  to,  or  how  it  disappeared,  I  do  not 
know.  For  an  ason  it  seemed  to  her  to  be  the 
greater  part  of  her  life,  and  then  it  melted  away, 
perhaps  being  absorbed  in  the  Brown  Testament 


28       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

and  the  more  dramatic  interest  of  Herod  and  the 
Innocents.  From  her  introduction  to  Herod 
dated  her  first  acquaintance  with  the  "  villain  "  in 
drama  and  romance,  and  her  opinion  of  his  con- 
duct was,  I  am  convinced,  founded  on  something 
much  larger  than  mere  personal  feeling. 


CHAPTER   III 

The  Back  Garden  of  Eden 

I  DO  not  know  with  any  exactness  where  it 
was  situated.  To-day  I  believe  it  is  a  place  swept 
out  of  existence.  In  those  days  I  imagine  it  was 
a  comfortable,  countrified  house,  with  a  big  gar- 
den round  it,  and  fields  and  trees  before  and  be- 
hind it ;  but  if  I  were  to  describe  it  and  its  re- 
sources and  surroundings  as  they  appeared  to  me 
in  the  enchanted  days  when  I  lived  there,  I  should 
describe  a  sort  of  fairyland. 

If  one  could  only  make  a  picture  of  the  places 
of  the  world  as  these  Small  Persons  see  them, 
with  their  wondrous  proportions  and  beauties- 
the  great  heights  and  depths  and  masses,  the  gar- 
den-walks which  seem  like  stately  avenues,  the 
rose-bushes  which  are  jungles  of  bloom,  the  trees 
adventurous  brothers  climb  up  and  whose  top- 
most branches  seem  to  lift  them  to  the  sky. 
There  was  such  a  tree  at  the  bottom  of  the  gar- 
den at  Seedly.  To  the  Small  Person  the  garden 
seemed  a  mile  long.  There  was  a  Front  Garden 
and  a  Back  Garden,  and  it  was  the  Back  Garden 
she  liked  best  and  which  appeared  to  her  large 


30       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

enough  for  all  one's  world.  It  was  all  her  world 
during  the  years  she  spent  there.  The  Front 
Garden  had  a  little  lawn  with  flower-beds  on  it 
and  a  gravel  walk  surrounding  it  and  leading  to 
the  Back  Garden.  The  interesting  feature  of  this 
domain  was  a  wide  flower-bed  which  curved 
round  it  and  represented  to  the  Small  Person  a 
stately  jungle.  It  was  filled  with  flowering  shrubs 
and  trees  which  bloomed,  and  one  could  walk  be- 
side them  and  look  through  the  tangle  of  their 
branches  and  stems  and  imagine  the  things  which 
might  live  among  them  and  be  concealed  in  their 
shadow.  There  were  rose-bushes  and  lilac-bushes 
and  rhododendrons,  and  there  were  laburnums 
and  snowballs.  Elephants  and  tigers  might  have 
lurked  there,  and  there  might  have  been  fairies  or 
gypsies,  though  I  clo  not  think  her  mind  formu- 
lated distinctly  anything  more  than  an  interesting 
suggestion  of  possibilities. 

But  the  Back  Garden  was  full  of  beautiful  won- 
ders. Was  it  always  Spring  or  Summer  there  in 
that  enchanted  Garden  which,  out  of  a  whole 
world,  has  remained  throughout  a  lifetime  the 
Garden  of  Eden  ?  Was  the  sun  always  shining  ? 
Later  and  more  material  experience  of  the  Eng- 
lish climate  leads  me  to  imagine  that  it  was  not 
always  flooded  and  warmed  with  sunshine,  and 
filled  with  the  scent  of  roses  and  mignonette  and 
new-mown  hay  and  apple-blossoms  and  strawber- 


The  Back   Garden  of  Eden  31 

ries  all  together,  and  that  when  one  laid  down  on 
the  grass  on  one's  back  one  could  not  always  see 
that  high,  high  world  of  deep  sweet  blue  with 
fleecy  islets  and  mountains  of  snow  drifting  slowly 
by  or  seeming  to  be  quite  still — that  world  to 
which  one  seemed  somehow  to  belong  even  more 
than  to  the  earth,  and  which  drew  one  upward 
with  such  visions  of  running  over  the  white  soft 
hills  and  springing,  from  little  island  to  little 
island,  across  the  depths  of  blue  which  seemed  a 
sea.  But  it  was  always  so  on  the  days  the  One  I 
knew  the  best  of  all  remembers  the  garden.  This 
is  no  doubt  because,  on  the  wet  days  and  the  windy 
ones,  the  cold  days  and  the  ugly  ones,  she  was 
kept  in  the  warm  nursery  and  did  not  see  the 
altered  scene  at  all. 

In  the  days  in  which  she  played  out  of  doors 
there  were  roses  in  bloom,  and  a  score  of  wonder- 
ful annuals,  and  bushes  with  gooseberries  and  red 
and  white  and  black  currants,  and  raspberries 
and  strawberries,  and  there  was  a  mysterious  and 
endless  seeming  alley  of  Sweetbriar,  wrhich  smelt 
delicious  when  one  touched  the  leaves  and  which 
sometimes  had  a  marvellous  development  in  the 
shape  of  red  berries  upon  it.  How  is  it  that  the 
warm,  scented  alley  of  Sweetbriar  seems  to  lead 
her  to  an  acquaintance,  an  intimate  and  friendly 
acquaintance,  with  the  Rimmers's  pigs,  and  some- 
how through  them  to  the  first  Crime  of  her  infancy  ? 


32       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

The  Rimmers  were  some  country  working- 
people  whose  white-washed  cottage  was  near  the 
Back  Garden.  Rimmer  himself  was  a  market 
gardener,  and  in  his  professional  capacity  had 
some  connection  with  the  Back  Garden  itself  and 
also  with  the  gardener.  The  cottage  was  very 
quaint  and  rural,  and  its  garden,  wherein  cab- 
bages and  currant-bushes  and  lettuces,  etc.,  grew 
luxuriantly,  was  very  long  and  narrow,  and  one 
of  its  fascinating  features  was  the  pig-sty. 

A  pig-sty  does  not  seem  fascinating  to  mature 
years,  but  to  Six-years-old,  looking  through  an 
opening  in  a  garden  hedge  and  making  the  ac- 
quaintance of  a  little  girl  pig-owner  on  the  other 
side,  one  who  knows  all  about  pigs  and  their 
peculiarities,  it  becomes  an  interesting  object. 

Not  having  known  the  pig  in  his  domestic 
circles,  as  it  were,  and  then  to  be  introduced  to 
him  in  his  own  home,  surrounded  bv  Mrs.  Pisr  and 

J  O 

a  family  of  little  Pink  Pigs,  squealing  and  hustling 
each  other,  and  being  rude  over  their  dinner  in 
the  trough,  is  a  situation  full  of  suggestion. 

The  sty  is  really  like  a  little  house.  What  is  Mr. 
Pig  thinking  of  as  he  lies  with  his  head  half-way 
out  of  the  door,  blinking  in  the  sun,  and  seeming 
to  converse  with  his  family  in  grunts?  What  do 
the  Brunts  mean  ?  Do  the  little  Pink  Pi^s  under- 

o  o 

stand  them  ?  Does  Mrs.  Pig  really  reply  when  she 
seems  to  ?  Do  they  really  like  potato  and  apple 


The  Back   Garden  of  Eden  ^ 

j  \j  \j 

parings,  and  all  sorts  of  things  jumbled  together 
with  buttermilk  and  poured  into  the  trough? 

The  little  girl  whose  father  owns  the  pigs  is 
very  gifted.  She  seems  to  know  everything  about 
the  family  in  the  sty.  One  may  well  cherish  an 
acquaintance  with  a  person  of  such  knowledge 
and  experience. 

One  is  allowed  to  talk  to  this  little  girl.  Her 
name  is  Emma  Rimmer.  Her  father  and  mother 
are  decent  people,  and  she  is  a  well-behaved  little 
girl.  There  is  a  little  girl  whose  mother  keeps  the 
toll-gate  on  the  road,  and  it  is  not  permitted  that 
one  should  converse  with  her.  She  is  said  to  be 
"  a  rude  little  girl,"  and  is  tabooed. 

But  with  Emma  Rimmer  it  is  different.  She 
wears  a  print  frock  and  clogs,  and  speaks  in  the 
Lancashire  dialect,  but  there  seems  to  be  no  seri- 
ous objection  to  occasional  conversation  with  her. 
At  some  time  the  Small  Person  must  have  been 
taken  into  the  narrow  garden,  because  of  a  remem- 
brance of  luxuries  there  revealed.  A  yard  or  so 
from  the  door  of  the  cottage  there  was  a  small 
wooden  shed,  with  a  slanting  roof  protecting  a 
sort  of  table  or  counter,  with  toothsome  delicacies 
spread  upon  it  for  sale. 

They  were  refreshments  of  the  sort  which  the 
working -classes  patronize  during  their  Sunday 
wTalks  into  the  country.  Most  of  them  are  pur- 
chasable for  one  penny,  or  one  halfpenny,  in  coin 
3 


34       The   One  I  Kneiv  the  Best  of  All 

of  the  realm.     Pieces  of  cardboard  in  the  cottage 

o 

window  announce  : 


'  Pop.     A  penny  a  bottle. 
Ginger  beer 
Sold  here. 
Also  Nettle  beer." 


On   the   stall  there   are    "  Real    Eccles  Cakes. 
One   penny    each."      "  Parkins.      A    halfpenny." 
There  are  glass  bottles  with  "  Raspberry  Drops' 
in   them,  and    "  Bulls    Eyes,"    and    "  Humbugs  ' 
-beautiful    striped    sticky    things    which    taste 
strongly    of    peppermint.       If    one    is    capitalist 
enough  to   possess  a  halfpenny,   one    can    spend 
half  an  hour  in  trying  to  decide  what  luxury  to 
invest  it  in. 

There  was  in  those  days  in  the  air  a  rumor — 
for  which  Emma  Rimmer  was  responsible — a  sort 
of  legend  repeated  with  bated  breath  and  not  re- 
garded with  entire  confidence — of  a  female  Monte 
Christo  of  tender  years,  who  once  had  spent  a 
whole  sixpence  at  a  time.  But  no  one  saw  her. 
She  was  never  traced  and  could  not  have  be- 
longed to  the  neighborhood.  Indeed  there  was 
an  impression  in  the  Small  Person's  mind  that 
she  was  somehow  connected  with  someone  who 
worked  in  factories — perhaps  was  a  little  factory 
girl  herself.  No  \vell-regulated  little  girl,  with  a 


The  Back   Garden  of  Eden  35 

nurse's  eye  upon  her,  would  have  been  permitted 
to  indulge  in  such  reckless,  even  vulgar,  extrava- 
gance. 

Through  the  nearness  of  these  temptations 
Crime  came.  The  Serpent  entered  the  Back 
Garden  of  Eden.  The  Serpent  was  innocent  lit- 
tle Emma  Rimmer. 

There  was  a  day  on  which  the  Small  Person 
was  playing  with  Emma  Rimmer.  Perhaps  the 
air  was  sharp  and  hunger-creating,  perhaps  she 
had  not  eaten  all  her  bowl  of  bread-and-milk  at 
her  Nursery  breakfast  that  morning.  Somehow 
she  was  not  in  the  Back  Garden,  but  in  the  road 
outside  the  big  gates  which  opened  into  the  car- 
riage-way. Why  she  was  without  her  Nurse  is 
not  explained.  She  seemed  to  be  jumping  about 
and  running  in  a  circle  with  Emma  Rimmer,  and 
she  became  suddenly  conscious  of  a  gnawing 
sense  of  vacancy  under  the  belt  of  her  pinafore. 
"  I  am  so  hungry,"  she  said  ;  "  I  am  so  hungry." 
Emma  looked  at  her  and  then  continued  to  jump 
up  and  down. 

Something  unusual  must  have  been  in  the  situ- 
ation, because  there  seemed  to  be  none  of  the 
usual  methods  to  fall  back  upon  in  the  way  of 
going  in  search  of  bread-and-butter. 

"I  wish  I  had  a  halfpenny,"  she  continued.  "  If 
I  had  a  halfpenny  I  would  get  you  to  go  to  your 
cottage  and  get  me  a  halfpenny  parkin."  A  parkin 


36       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

is  a  spicy  thing-  made  of  molasses  and  oatmeal 
and  flavored  with  ginger.  It  can  only  be  found 
in  Lancashire  and  Yorkshire. 

Emma  stopped  jumping  and  looked  sharply  re- 
flective. Familiarity  with  commerce  had  ren- 
dered her  daring. 

"  Why  does'na  tha'  go  an'  get  a  parkin  on 
trust? "  she  said.  "  My  mother  'd  trust  thee  for  a 
ha'p'ny." 

"  Ah  !  "  gasped  the  Small  Person. 

The  boldness  of  the  suggestion  overwhelmed 
her.  She  had  never  dreamed  of  the  possibility  of 
such  a  thing. 

"  Aye,  she  would,"  said  Emma.  "  Tha'  could 
just  get  thy  parkin  an'  pay  next  toime  tha'  had  a 
ha'p'ny.  A  moit  o'  people  does  that  way.  I'll  go 
an'  ax  Mother  fur  thee  now." 

The  scheme  seemed  so  gigantic,  so  far  from  re- 
spectable, so  fraught  with  peril.  Suppose  that 
one  got  a  parkin  "  on  trust,"  and  never  got  a  half- 
penny, and  one's  family  were  consequently  in- 
volved in  eternal  dishonor  and  disaster. 

"  Mamma  would  be  angry,"  she  said ;  "  she 
would  not  let  me  do  it." 

"  Tha'  needn't  say  nowt  about  it,"  said  Emma. 

This  was  not  actual  duplicity,  I  am  convinced. 
Her  stolid  rusticity  retained  its  red  cheeks  like 
rosy  apples,  and  she  hopped  about  like  a  cheerful 
sparrow. 


The  Back   Garden  of  Eden 


37 


It  was  doubtless  this  serene  and  matter-of-fact 
unconsciousness  of  any  serious  aspect  of  the  mat- 
ter which  had  its  effect  upon  the  Small  Person. 


\ 

&e-  #r>,i '    .iv'    ! 


• 


There  is  no  knowing  how  long  the  discussion 
lasted,  or  in  what  manner  she  was  finally  per- 
suaded by  prosaic,  practical  argument  that  to 
make  an  investment  "  on  trust'  was  an  every- 


38       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

day  commercial  affair.  The  end  of  the  matter 
was  that  stress  of  the  moment  prevailed  and 
Emma  went  for  the  parkin. 

But  the  way  of  the  infant  transgressor  is  hard. 
The  sense  of  proportion  is  as  exaggerated  in  re- 
gard to  mental  as  to  physical  objects.  As  lilac 
and  rhododendron  bushes  form  jungles,  and  trees 
reach  the  sky,  so  a  nursery  law  defied  assumes  the 
stature  of  a  crime,  and  surrounds  itself  with  hor- 
ror. I  do  not  think  there  is  a  defalcator,  an  ab- 
sconding bank  president,  a  criminal  of  any  de- 
gree, who  is  beset  by  such  a  monster  of  remorse 
as  beset  the  Small  Person,  when  her  guilt  was 
so  far  an  accomplished  fact  that  the  brown  and 
sticky  cake  was  in  her  hand. 

•/ 

The  incident  is  nothing,  but  its  effect,  in  its  il- 
lustration of  the  dimensions  facts  assume  to  the 
contemplative  mind  of  tender  years,  has  its  inter- 
est. She  could  not  eat  the  "  parkin."  Her  soul 
revolted  against  it  after  the  first  bite.  She  could 
not  return  it  to  Mrs.  Rimmer  with  a  semicircular 
piece  taken  out  of  its  roundness,  and  the  marks  of 
small,  sharp  teeth  on  the  edge.  In  a  situation 
so  fraught  with  agony  and  so  clouded  with  in- 
famy she  could  confide  in  no  one.  I  have  never 
murdered  anyone  and  had  the  body  of  my  victim 
to  conceal  from  the  public  eye,  but  I  know  how 
a  murderer  suffering  from  this  inconvenience 
feels.  The  brown,  sticky  cake  with  the  semicir- 


The  Back   Garden  of  Eden  39 

cular  bite  taken  out  of  it,  was  as  awful  and  as 
difficult  to  manage.  To  dispose  of  it  involved 
creeping  about  on  tiptoe,  with  beating  heart  and 
reeling  brain.  It  involved  looking  stealthily  for 
places  where  evidences  of  crime  might  be  con- 
cealed. Why  the  Small  Person  hit  on  a  specially 
candid  shelf  in  a  cupboard  in  an  undisguised  side- 
board in  the  dining-room,  as  a  good  place,  it 
would  be  difficult  to  say.  I  comfort  myself  by 
saying  that  this  indicated  that  she  was  naturally 
unfitted  for  crime  and  underhanded  ways,  and 
was  not  the  least  clever  in  stealth. 

How  she  separated  from  her  partner  in  iniquity 
I  do  not  remember.  My  chief  memory  is  of  the 
awful  days  and  nights  which  followed.  How 
many  were  there?  She  thought  a  thousand — it  is 
probable  there  were  two  or  three. 

She  was  an  infant  Eugene  Aram,  and  the  body 
of  her  victim  was  mouldering  in  the  very  house 
with  her.  Her  anguish,  however,  did  not  arise 
from  a  fear  of  punishment.  Her  Mamma  was  not 
severe,  her  Nurses  were  not  allowed  to  slap  her. 
It  was  a  mental  affair  altogether.  She  felt  that 
she  had  disgraced  her  family.  She  had  brought 
ignominy  and  dishonor  upon  her  dearest  rela- 
tives. She  was  very  fond  of  her  relatives,  and 
her  conception  of  their  moral  and  mental  altitude 
was  high.  Her  Mamma  was  a  lady,  and  her  little 
daughter  had  gone  and  bought  a  halfpenny  par- 


4O       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

kin  "  on  trust."  She  would  have  felt  it  not  the 
least  an  undue  thing  if  a  thunderbolt  had  struck 
her  dead  in  the  Back  Garden.  It  was  no  longer 
the  Back  Garden  of  Eden.  A  degraded  criminal 
denied  it  with  her  presence. 

And  the  Body  was  mouldering  in  the  side- 
board, on  the  second  shelf  in  the  little  cupboard. 

I  think  she  would  have  faded  away  and  perished 
with  the  parkin,  as  witch-stricken  victims  perish 
with  the  waxen  figure  which  melts — but  there 
came  relief. 

She  had  two  brothers  older  than  herself,  and  so 
to  be  revered,  as  representing  experience  and  the 
powerful  mind  of  masculinity.  (Being  an  English 
little  girl  she  knew  the  vast  superiority  of  the 
Male.)  The  younger  of  the  two  was  a  combative 
little  fellow  with  curly  hair,  a  belted-in  round- 
about, a  broad  white  collar,  and  two  broad  white 
front  teeth.  As  she  was  only  a  girl,  he  despised 
her  in  a  fraternal  British  way,  but  as  she  was  his 
sister  he  had  a  kind  of  affection  for  her,  which  ex- 
pressed itself  in  occasional  acts  of  friendly  pat- 
ronage. He  was  perhaps  seven  or  eight  years  old. 

In  some  moment  of  severest  stress  of  anguish 
she  confessed  herself  to  him.  It  is  so  long  ago 
that  I  cannot  describe  the  manner  or  the  occasion. 
I  can  only  remember  the  magnificence  of  his  con- 
duct. He  must  have  been  a  good-natured  little 
fellow,  and  he  certainly  had  a  lordly  sense  of  the 


The  Back   Garden  of  Eden 


family    dignity,    even   as    represented  or  misrep- 
resented by  a  girl. 

That  he  berated  her  roundly  it  is  not  unlikely, 
but   his    points   of 
view    concerning 
the  crime  were  not 
a  s     disproportion- 
ately exalted  as  her 
own.     His  mascu- 
line   vigor    would 
not  permit  her  to 
be  utterly  crushed, 
or  the  family  hon- 
or lost.     He  was  a 
Man  and   a   Capi- 
talist, as  well  as  a 
Man  and  a  Brother. 
He  had  a  penny  of 
his  own,  he  had  al- 
so a  noble  and  Na- 
poleonic nature.     He  went  to  the  cottage  of  Mrs. 
Rimmer  (to  his  greater  maturity  was  accorded 
the  freedom  of  leaving  the  garden  unaccompanied 
by  a  nurse)  and  paid  for  the  parkin.     So  the  blot 
was  erased  from  the  escutcheon,  so  the  criminal, 
though  still   feeling   herself  stained  with    crime, 
breathed  again. 

She  had  already  begun  to  have  a  sort  of  literary 
imagination,  and  it  must  in  some  way  have  been 


42       The   One  I  Knew  tke  Best  of  All 

already  fed  with  some  stories  of  heroic  and  noble 
little  boys  whose  conduct  was  to  be  emulated  and 
admired.  I  argue  this  from  the  fact  that  she 
mentally  and  reverently  compared  him  to  a  boy 
in  a  book.  What  book  I  cannot  say,  and  I  am  not 
sure  that  she  could  have  said  herself,  but  at  that 
time  he  figured  in  her  imagination  as  a  creature  too 
noble  to  be  anything  but  a  creation  of  literature- 
the  kind  of  boy  who  would  refuse  to  steal  apples, 
and  invariably  gave  his  plum-cake  to  beggars  or 
hungry  dogs. 

But  there  was  a  feature  of  the  melting  away 
of  this  episode  which  was  always  a  mystery  to 
her.  Her  Mamma  knew  all,  so  did  her  Grand- 
mamma, so  did  the  Nurses,  and  yet  she  was  not 
treated  as  an  outcast.  Nobody  scolded  her,  no- 
body reviled  her,  nobody  seemed  to  be  afraid  to 
leave  her  with  the  Baby,  for  fear  she  might  de- 
stroy it  in  some  mad  outburst  of  her  evil  in- 
stincts. This  seemed  inexplicable.  If  she  had 
been  branded  on  the  brow,  and  henceforth  kept 
under  the  custody  of  a  strong  escort  of  police- 
men, she  would  not  have  been  surprised.  And 
yet  she  was  allowed  to  eat  her  breakfast  bowl  of 
bread-and-milk  at  the  Nursery  table  with  innocent 
children,  and  to  play  in  the  Back  Garden  as  if  her 
presence  would  not  blight  the  gooseberries,  and 
the  red  currants  would  not  shrivel  beneath  her 
evil  eye. 


The  Back   Garden  of  Eden  43 

My  opinion  is  that,  hearing  the  story  from  the 
Capitalist  in  the  roundabout,  her  Mamma  and  her 
Grandmamma  were  privately  immensely  amused, 
and  felt  it  more  discreet  to  preserve  a  dignified 
silence.  But  that  she  was  not  swept  from  the 
earth  as  she  deserved,  did  not  cause  her  to  regard 
her  crime  as  less.  She  only  felt  the  wonderful- 
ness  of  mercy  as  embodied  in  one's  Grandmamma 
and  one's  Mamma. 


CHAPTER  IV. 

Literature  and  tJie  Doll. 

WHETHER  as  impression-creating  and  mind- 
moulding  influences,  Literature  or  the  Doll  came 
first  into  her  life  it  would  be  most  difficult  to 
decide.  But  remembering  the  role  the  Doll 
played,  and  wherein  its  fascination  lay,  I  see  that 
its  way  must  have  been  paved  for  it  in  some 
rudimentary  manner  by  Literature,  though  their 
clearly  remembered  existences  seem  to  have  be- 
gun at  one  and  the  same  time.  Before  the  advent 
of  literary  influence  I  remember  no  Doll,  and, 
curiously  enough,  there  is,  before  the  advent  of 
the  Doll,  a  memory  of  something  like  stories- 
imperfect,  unsatisfactory,  filling  her  with  vague, 
restless  craving  for  greater  completeness  of  form, 
but  still  creating  images  for  her,  and  setting  her 
small  mind  at  work. 

It  is  not  in  the  least  likely  she  did  not  own 
dolls  before  she  owned  books,  but  it  is  certain 
that  until  literature  assisted  imagination  and  gave 
them  character,  they  seemed  only  things  stuffed 
with  sawdust  and  made  no  special  impression. 

It  is  also  certain  that  she  cannot  have  been  told 


Literature  and  the  Doll  45 

stories  as  a  rule.  I  should  say  that  she  did  not 
hear  them  even  as  the  exception.  I  am  sure  of 
this  because  I  so  well  recollect  her  desperate 
efforts  to  wring-  detail  of  any  sort  from  her 
nurses. 

The  "  Slaughter  of  the  Innocents  "  seems  to  me 
to  have  been  the  first  story  impression  in  her  life. 
A  little  illustrated  scripture  history  afforded  a 
picture  of  Jewish  mothers  rushing  madly  down 
broad  stone  stairways  clasping  babies  to  their 
breasts,  of  others  huddling  under  the  shadow  of 
high  walls  clutching  their  little  ones,  and  of  fierce 
armed  men  slashing  with  swords. 

This  was  the  work  of  Herod  the  King.     And 

o 

"  In  Rama  was  there  a  voice  heard,  lamentation 
and  weeping,  and  great  mourning.  Rachel  weep- 
ing for  her  children,  and  would  not  be  comfort- 
ed, because  they  were  not." 

This  was  the  first  story,  and  it  was  a  tragedy- 
only  made  endurable  by  that  story  of  the  Star  in 
the  East  which  led  the  way  to  the  Manger  where 

J  O 

the  little  Child  lay  sleeping  with  a  light  about  his 
head — the  little  Child  before  whom  the  wise  men 
bent,  worshipping  and  offering  gifts  of  frankin- 
cense and  myrrh.  She  wondered  greatly  what 
frankincense  and  myrrh  were,  but  the  wise  men 
were  beautiful  to  her,  and  she  could  see  quite 
clearly  the  high  deep  dome  of  blue  which  vaulted 
the  still  plain  where  the  Shepherds  watched  their 


46       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 
Hocks  at  niirht,  when  the  angel  of  the  Lord  came 

o  o 

to  them  and  glory  shone  round  about  and  they 
were  "  sore  afraid,"  until  the  angel  said  unto 
them,  "  Fear  not,  for  behold,  I  bring  you  good 
tidings  of  great  joy." 

This  part  of  the  story  was  strange  and  majestic 
and  lovely,  and  almost  consoled  her  for  Herod 
the  King. 

The  Nurse  who  was  the  unconscious  means  of 
suggesting  to  her  the  first  romance  of  her  life, 
must  have  been  a  dull  person.  Even  at  this  dis- 
tance I  find  myself  looking  back  at  her  vague, 
stupid  personality  with  a  sense  of  impatience. 

How  could  a  person  learn  a  couple  of  verses  of 
a  song  suggesting  a  story,  and  not  only  neglect  to 
learn  more,  but  neglect  to  inquire  about  the  story 

itself? 

And  oh,  the  helpless  torture  of  hearing  those 
odd  verses  and  standing  by  that  phlegmatic  per- 
son's knee  with  one's  yearning  eyes  fixed  on  her 
incomprehensible  countenance,  finding  one's  self 
unable  to  extort  from  her  by  any  cross-examina- 
tion the  details  ! 

Even  the  stray  verses  had  such  wonderful  sug- 
gestion in  them.  They  opened  up  such  vistas. 
At  that  time  the  Small  Person  faithfully  believed 
the  song-  to  be  called  "  Sweet  Alice  Benbolt ' 

O 

Miss  Alice  Benbolt  being,  as  she  supposed,  the 
name  of  the  young  lady  described  in  the  lines. 


Literature  and  the  Doll  47 

She  was  a  very  sensitive  young"  lady,  it  appeared, 
from  the  description  given  in  the  first  verse  : 

"  Ah,  don't  you  remember  Sweet  Alice  Benbolt, 

Sweet  Alice  with  hair  so  brown, 

How  she  wept  with  delight  when  you  gave  her  a  smile, 
And  trembled  with  fear  at  your  frown  ?  ' 

It  did  not  then  occur  to  the  Small  Person  that 
Miss  Benbolt  must  have  been  trying  in  the  do- 
mestic circle  ;  she  was  so  moved  by  the  tender- 
image  of  a  brown-haired  girl  who  was  called 
"  Sweet  Alice"  and  set  to  plaintive  music.  Some- 
how there  was  something  touching  in  the  way  she 
was  spoken  of — as  if  people  had  loved  her  and 
were  sorry  about  her  for  some  reason — the  boys 
who  had  gone  to  the  school-house  "  under  the 
hill,"  connected  with  which  there  seemed  to  be 
such  pathetic  memories,  though  the  Small  Person 
could  not  comprehend  why  they  were  pathetic. 
But  there  was  a  pathos  in  one  verse  which  broke 
her  heart  when  she  understood  it,  which  she 
scarcely  did  at  first. 

"  In  the  little  churchyard  in  the  valley  Benbolt, 

In  a  corner  obscure  and  alone, 
They  have  fitted  a  slab  of  the  granite  so  gray, 
And  Sweet  Alice  lies  under  the  stone." 

"  Why  does  she  lie  there?'  she  asked,  "with 
both  hands  on  the  Nurse's  knee.  "  Why  does 
Sweet  Alice  lie  under  the  stone  ?  " 


48       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

44  Because  she  died,"  said  the  Nurse,  without 
emotional  compunctions,  "  and  was  buried  there." 

The  Small  Person  clung  rather  helplessly  to  her 
apron. 

"  Sweet  Alice,"  she  said,  "  Sweet  Alice  with  hair 
so  brown?' 

(Why  was  the  brown  hair  pathetic  as  well  as  the 
name  ?  I  don't  know.  But  it  was.) 

"  Why  did  she  die  ?  "  she  asked.  "  What  did 
she  die  for  ?  ' 

"  I  don't  know,"  said  the  Nurse. 

"  But — but — tell  me  some  more,"  the  Small 
Person  gasped.  "  Sing  some  more." 

"  I  don't  know  any  more." 

"  But  where  did  the  boys  go  ?  ' 

"  I  don't  know." 

"  What  did  the  schoolmaster  do  ?' 

"  The  song  doesn't  tell." 

"  Why  was  he  grim  ?  ' 

"  It  doesn't  tell  that  either." 

"  Did  Sweet  Alice  go  to  school  to  him  ?  ' 

u  I  dare  say." 

"  Was  he  sorry  when  she  died  ? ' 

"  It  does  not  say." 

"  Are  there  no  more  verses? ' 

"  I  can't  remember  any  more." 

Questioning  was  of  no  use.  She  did  not  know 
any  more  and  she  did  not  care.  One  might  im- 
plore and  try  to  suggest,  but  she  was  not  an 


Literature  and  the  Doll  49 

imaginative  character,  and  so  the  Small   Person 

o 

was  left  to  gaze  at  her  with  hungry  eyes  and  a 
sense  of  despair  before  this  stolid  being,  who 
DiigJit  have  known  the  rest  and  would  not.  She 
probably  made  the  woman's  life  a  burden  to  her 
by  imploring  her  to  sing  again  and  again  the  stray 
verses,  and  I  have  no  doubt  that  at  each  repetition 
she  invented  new  questions. 

"  Sweet  Alice  Benbolt,"  she  used  to  say  to  her- 
self. "  Sweet  Alice  with  hair  so  brown."  And 
the  words  always  called  up  in  her  mind  a  picture 
which  is  as  clear  to-day  as  it  was  then. 

It  is  a  queer  little  picture,  but  it  seemed  very 
touching  at  that  time.  She  saw  a  hillside  covered 

o 

with  soft  £reen.     It  was  not  a  higfh  hill  and  its 

O  <— ' 

slope  was  gentle.  Why  the  "  school-house  under 
the  hill"  was  placed  on  the  top  of  it,  would  be 
difficult  to  explain.  But  there  it  was,  and  it 
seemed  to  look  down  on  and  watch  benignly  over 
something  in  a  corner  at  the  foot  of  it.  The 

O 

something  was  a  slab  of  the  granite  so  gray  ly- 
ing among  the  soft  greenness  of  the  grass. 

"  And  Sweet  Alice  lay  under  the  stone." 

She  was  not  a  shadow — Sweet  Alice.  She  is 
something  far  more  than  a  shadow  even  now, 
in  a  mind  through  which  thousands  of  shadows 
have  passed.  She  was  a  tender  thing — and  she 


50       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

had  brown  hair — and  somehow  people  loved  her 
-and  she  died. 

It  was  not  until  Literature  in  the  form  of  story7, 

j  j 

romance,  tragedy,  and  adventure  had  quickened 
her  imagination  that  the  figure  of  the  Doll  loomed 
up  in  the  character  of  an  absorbing  interest,  but 
once  having  appeared  it  never  retired  from  the 
scene  until  advancing  years  forced  the  curtain  to 
fall  upon  the  exciting  scenes  of  which  it  was  al- 
ways the  heroine. 

That  was  the  truth  of  the  matter — it  was  not  a 
Doll,  but  a  Heroine. 

And  some  imagination  was  required  to  make  it 
one.  The  Doll  of  that  day  was  not  the  dimpled 
star-eyed  creature  of  to-day,  who  can  stand  on  her 
o\vn  firm  little  feet,  whose  plump  legs  and  arms 
can  be  placed  in  any  position,  whose  attitudes 
may  be  made  to  express  emotions  in  accordance 
with  the  Delsarte  system,  and  who  has  parted 
lips  and  pearly  teeth,  and  indulges  in  features. 
Not  at  all. 

The  natural  advantages  of  a  doll  of  that  period 
confined  themselves  to  size,  hair  which  was  sewn 
on  a  little  black  skull-cap — if  it  was  not  plastered 
on  with  mucilage  -  -  and  eyes  which  could  be 
jerked  open  if  one  pulled  a  wire  which  stuck 
out  of  her  side.  The  most  expensive  and  magnifi- 
cent doll  you  could  have  was  merely  a  big  wax 
one,  whose  hair  could  be  combed  and  whose  eyes 


Literature  and  the  Doll  51 

would  open  and  shut.  Otherwise  they  were  all 
the  same.  Only  the  face  and  neck  were  of  wax, 
and  features  were  not  studied  by  the  manufact- 
urers. All  the  faces  were  exactly  the  same  shape, 
or  rather  the  same  shapelessness.  Expression  and 
outline  would  have  been  considered  wanton  waste 
of  material.  To-day  dolls  have  cheeks  and  noses 
and  lips  and  brows,  they  look  smiling  or  pensive, 
childlike  or  sophisticated.  At  that  time  no  doll 
was  guilty  of  looking  anything  at  all.  In  the 
middle  of  her  smooth,  round  face  was  a  blunt 
excrescence  which  was  called  a  nose,  beneath  it 
was  a  line  of  red  paint  which  was  meant  for  a 
mouth,  on  each  side  of  it  was  a  tight-looking 
black  or  blue  glass  eye  as  totally  devoid  of  ex- 
pression and  as  far  removed  from  any  resem- 
blance to  a  real  eye  as  the  combined  talents  of  ages 
of  doll  manufacturers  could  make  it.  It  had  no 
pupil  and  no  meaning,  it  stared,  it  glared,  and  was 
only  a  little  more  awful  when  one  pulled  the  wax 
lid  over  it  than  it  was  when  it  was  fixed  and  open. 
Two  arches  of  brown  paint  above  it  were  its  eye- 
brows, and  all  this  beauty  was  surmounted  with 
the  small  black  cap  on  the  summit  of  which  was 
stretched  a  row  of  dangling  curls  of  black  or 
brown.  Its  body  was  stuffed  with  sawdust  which 
had  a  tragic  tendency  to  burst  forth  and  run  out 
through  any  hole  in  the  white  calico  which  was 
its  skin.  The  arms  and  legs  were  like  sawdust- 


52       The   One  I  Kneiv  t/ie  Best  of  All 

stuffed  sausages,  its  arms  were  covered  with  pink 
or  blue  or  yellow  or  green  kid,  there  being  no 
prejudice  caused  by  the  fact  that  arms  were  not 
usually  of  any  of  these  shades  ;  its  legs  dangled 
painfully  and  presented  no  haughty  contours,  and 
its  toes  invariably  turned  in. 

How  an  imagination,  of  the  most  fervid,  could 
transform  this  thing  into  a  creature  resembling 
anything  human  one  cannot  explain.  But  nature 
is  very  good — sometimes — to  little  children.  One 
day,  in  a  squalid  London  street,  I  drove  by  a 
dirty  mite  sitting  upon  a  step,  cuddling  warmly 
a  little  bundle  of  hay  tied  round  the  middle  with 
a  string.  It  was  her  baby.  It  probably  was  lily 
fair  and  had  eyes  as  blue  as  heaven,  and  cooed 
and  kissed  her  again --but  grown-up  people 
could  not  see. 

When  I  recall  the  adventures  through  which 
the  Dolls  of  the  Small  Person  passed,  the  trage- 
dies of  emotion,  the  scenes  of  battle,  murder,  and 
sudden  death,  1  do  not  wonder  that  at  times  the 
sawdust  burst  forth  from  their  calico  cuticle  in 
streams,  and  the  Nursery  floor  was  deluged  with 
it.  Was  it  a  thing  to  cause  surprise  that  they 
wore  out  and  only  lasted  from  one  birthday  to 
another?  Their  span  of  life  was  short,  but  they 
could  not  complain  that  existence  had  not  been 
full  for  them.  The  Doll  who,  on  November  24th, 
begins  a  checkered  career  by  mounting  an  un- 


Literature  and  t/ie  Doll  53 

tamed  and  untamable,  fiercely  prancing  and 
snorting  steed,  which,  while  it  strikes  sparks  from 
the  earth  it  spurns  with  its  disdainful  hoofs,  wears 
to  the  outward  gaze  the  aspect  of  the  mere  arm 
of  a  Nursery  Sofa  covered  with  green  baize — the 
Doll  who  begins  life  by  mounting  this  steed,  and 
so  conquering  its  spirit  that  it  responds  to  her 
touch  and  leaps  the  most  appalling  hedges  and 
abysses,  and  leaves  the  lightning  itself  behind  in 
its  career ;  and  having  done  this  on  the  24th,  is 
executed  in  black  velvet  on  the  25th  as  Mary 
Queen  of  Scots,  besides  being  imprisoned  in  the 
Tower  of  London  as  someone  else,  and  threatened 
with  the  rack  and  the  stake  because  she  will  not 
"  recant "  and  become  a  Roman  Catholic — a  Doll 
with  a  career  like  this  cannot  be  dull,  though  she 
may  at  periods  be  exhausted.  While  the  two  lit- 
tle sisters  of  the  Small  Person  arranged  their  doll's 
house  prettily  and  had  tea-parties  out  of  minia- 
ture cups  and  saucers,  and  visited  each  other's 
corners  of  the  nursery,  in  her  corner  the  Small 
Person  entertained  herself  with  wildly  thrilling 
histories,  which  she  related  to  herself  in  an  under- 
tone, while  she  acted  them  with  the  assistance  of 
her  Doll. 

She  was  all  the  characters  but  the  heroine — the 
Doll  was  that.  She  was  the  hero,  the  villain,  the 
banditti,  the  pirates,  the  executioner,  the  weep- 
ing maids  of  honor,  the  touchingly  benevolent 


54       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

old  gentleman,  the  courtiers,  the  explorers,  the 
king. 

She  always  spoke  in  a  whisper  or  an  undertone, 
unless  she  was  quite  alone,  because  she  was  shy 
of  being  heard.  This  was  probably  an  instinct 
at  first,  but  it  was  a  feeling  intensified  early  by 
finding  out  that  her  habit  of  "  talking  to  her- 
self," as  others  called  it,  was  considered  a  joke. 
The  servants  used  to  listen  to  her  behind  doors 
and  giggle  when  they  caught  her ;  her  brothers 
regarded  her  as  a  ridiculous  little  object.  They 
were  cricket -playing  boys,  who  possibly  won- 
dered in  private  if  she  was  slightly  cracked,  but 
would  have  soundly  thumped  and  belabored  any 
other  boy  who  had  dared  to  suggest  the  same 
thing. 

The  time  came  when  she  heard  it  said  that  she 
was  "  romantic."  It  was  the  most  crushing  thing 
she  had  ever  experienced.  She  was  quite  sure 
that  she  Avas  not  romantic.  She  could  not  bear 
the  ignominy  of  the  suggestion.  She  did  not 
know  what  she  was,  but  she  was  sure  she  was  not 
romantic.  So  she  was  very  cautious  in  the  mat- 
ter of  keeping  to  her  own  corner  of  the  Nursery 
and  putting  an  immediate  stop  to  her  perform- 
ance the  instant  she  observed  a  silence,  as  if  any- 
one was  listening.  But  her  most  delightful  life 
concentrated  itself  in  those  dramatized  stories 
through  which  she  "  talked  to  herself." 


Literature  and  the  Doll 


55 


At  the  end  of  the  entrance  hall  of  the  house  in 
which  she  lived  was  a  tall  stand  for  a  candelabra. 

It   was  of    worked    iron 
and  its  standard  was  or- 
namented   with    certain 
decorative  sup- 
ports   to    the 
upper  part. 
What  were 
the  emo- 
t  i  o  n  s 
of  the 


Small 

Person's 

M  a  m  m  a , 

who  was  the 

gentlest     a  n  d 

kindest  of  her  sex, 

on  coming  upon  her 

offspring  one  day,  on  descending  the  staircase,  to 

find  her  apparently  furious  with  insensate  rage, 

muttering  to  herself  as  she  brutally  lashed,  with 


56       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  AIL 

one  of  her  brother's  toy  whips,  a  cheerfully  hide- 
ous black  gutta-percha  doll  who  was  tied  to  the 
candelabra  stand  and  appeared  to  be  enjoying  the 
situation. 

"  My  dear,  my  dear  !  '  exclaimed  the  alarmed 
little  lady,  "  what  arc  you  doing  ?  ' 

The  Small  Person  gave  a  little  jump  and 
dropped  at  her  side  the  stalwart  right  arm  which 
had  been  wielding  the  whip.  She  looked  as  if 
she  would  have  turned  very  red,  if  it  had  been 
possible  for  her  to  become  redder  than  her  exer- 
tions had  made  her. 

"I- -I  was  only  playing,"  she  faltered,  sheep- 
ishly. 

"  Playing  !  "  echoed  her  Mamma.  "  What  ivcrc 
you  playing  ?  ' 

The  Small  Person  hung  her  head  and  answered, 
with  downcast  countenance,  greatly  abashed. 

"  I  was — only  just — pretending  something,"  she 
said. 

"  It  really  quite  distressed  me,"  her  Mamma 
said,  in  discussing  the  matter  afterward  with  a 
friend.  "  I  don't  think  she  is  really  a  cruel  child. 
I  always  thought  her  rather  kind-hearted,  but  she 
wras  lashing  that  poor  black  doll  and  talking  to 
herself  like  a  little  fury.  She  looked  quite 
\vicked.  She  said  she  was  '  pretending '  some- 
thing. You  know  that  is  her  way  of  playing. 
She  does  not  play  as  Edith  and  Edwina  do.  She 


Literature  and  the  Doll  57 

k  pretends  '  her  doll  is  somebody  out  of  a  story 
and  she  is  somebody  else.  She  is  very  romantic. 
It  made  me  rather  nervous  the  other  day  when 
she  dressed  a  baby-doll  in  white  and  put  it  into  a 
box  and  covered  it  with  flowers  and  buried  it  in 
the  front  garden.  She  was  so  absorbed  in  it,  and 
she  hasn't  dug  it  up.  She  goes  and  strews  flow- 
ers over  the  grave.  I  should  like  to  know  what 
she  was  (  pretending  '  when  she  was  beating  the 
black  doll." 

Not  until  the   Small   Person  had  outgrown  all 

o 

dolls,  and  her  mother  reminded  her  of  this  inci- 
dent, did  that  innocent  lady  know  that  the  black 
doll's  name  was  Topsy,  but  that  on  this  occasion 
it  had  been  transformed  into  poor  Uncle  Tom, 
and  that  the  little  fury  with  flying  hair  was  the 
wicked  Legree. 

She  had  been  reading  "  Uncle  Tom's  Cabin." 
What  an  era  it  was  in  her  existence.  The  cheer- 
ful black  doll  was  procured  immediately  and 
called  Topsy  ;  her  "  best  doll,"  which  fortunately 
had  brown  hair  in  its  wig,  was  Eva,  and  was  kept 
actively  employed  slowly  fading  away  and  dying, 
while  she  talked  about  the  New  Jerusalem,  with 
a  hectic  flush  on  her  cheeks.  She  converted 
Topsy,  and  totally  changed  her  gutta-percha  nat- 
ure, though  it  was  impossible  to  alter  her  gutta- 
percha  grin.  She  conversed  with  Uncle  Tom 
(then  the  Small  Person  was  Uncle  Tom) ;  she  cut 


58       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

off  "her  long  golden-brown  curls"  (not  literally; 
that  was  only  "  pretended : '  the  wig  had  not 
ringlets  enough  on  it),  and  presented  them  to  the 
weeping  slaves.  (Then  the  Small  Person  was  all 
the  weeping  slaves  at  once.)  It  is  true  that  her 
blunt-nosed  wax  countenance  remained  perfectly 
unmoved  throughout  all  this  emotion,  and  it  must 
be  confessed  that  at  times  the  Small  Person  felt  a 
lack  in  her,  but  an  ability  to  "  pretend  "  ardently 
was  her  consolation  and  support. 

It  surely  must  be  true  that  all  children  possess 
this  right  of  entry  into  the  fairyland,  where  any- 
thing can  be  "  pretended."  I  feel  quite  sure  they 
do,  and  that,  if  one  could  follow  them  in  the  "  pre- 
tendings,"  one  would  make  many  discoveries 
about  them.  One  day,  in  the  Cascine  in  Florence, 
a  party  of  little  girls  passed  me.  They  were  led 
by  a  handsome  child  of  eleven  or  twelve,  who, 
with  her  head  in  the  air,  was  speaking  rapidly  in 
French. 

"  Moi,"  she  said  to  the  others  as  she   went  by, 

• 

and  she  made  a  fine  gesture  with  her  hand,  "  Moi 
je  suis  la  Reine  ;  vous — vous  etes  ma  suite  !  ' 

It  set  one  to  thinking.  Nature  has  the  caprice 
sometimes,  we  know,  to  endow  a  human  thing  at 
birth  with  gifts  and  powers  which  make  it  through 
life  a  leader — "la  reine'  or  "le  roi,"  of  whom 
afterward  others  are  always  more  or  less  "  la 
suite."  But  one  wondered  if  such  gifts  and 


Literature  and  the  Doll  59 

powers  in  themselves  had  not  a  less  conscious 
and  imperious  air  than  this  young-  pretender 
wore. 

The  green-covered  sofa  in  the  Nursery  was  an 
adventurous  piece  of  furniture.  To  the  casual 
observer  it  wore  a  plain  old-fashioned,  respectable 
exterior.  It  was  hard  and  uninviting  and  had  an 
arm  at  each  end  under  which  was  fitted  a  species 
of  short,  stiff  green  bolster  or  sausage.  But  these 
arms  were  capable  of  things  of  which  the  cold 
unimaginative  world  did  not  dream.  I  wonder  if 

o 

the  sofa  itself  dreamed  of  them  and  if  it  found 
them  an  interesting  variety  of  its  regular  Nursery 
life.  These  arms  were  capable  of  transforming 
themselves  at  a  moment's  notice  into  the  most 
superb  equine  form.  They  were  "  coal-black 
steeds '  or  "  snow-white  palfreys,"  or  "  untamed 
mustangs  ;"  they  "  curvetted,"  they  "  caracoled," 
they  pranced,  their  "  proud  hoofs  spurned  the 
earth."  They  were  always  doing  things  like  these, 
while  the  Doll "  sprang  lightly  to  her  saddle  "  or  sat 
"  erect  as  a  dart."  They  were  always  untamable, 
but  the  Doll  in  her  character  of  heroine  could 
always  tame  them  and  remain  smiling  and  fearless 
while  they  "  dashed  across  the  boundless  plain ' 
or  clawed  the  heavens  with  their  forefeet.  No 
equestrian  feat  ever  disturbed  the  calm  hauteur 
of  the  Doll.  She  issued  triumphant  from  every 
deadly  peril. 


60       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  AIL 

It  was  Sir  Walter  Scott  who  transformed  the 
sofa-arms  to  "  coal-black  steeds,"  G.  P.  R.  James 
and  Harrison  Ainsworth  who  made  them  "  snow- 
white  palfreys,"  and  Captain  Mayne  Reid  whose 
spell  changed  them  to  "untamed  mustangs'  and 
the  Nursery  into  a  boundless  prairie  across  which 
troops  of  Indian  warriors  pursued  the  Doll  upon 
her  steed,  in  paint  and  feathers,  and  with  war- 
whoops  and  yells,  having  as  their  object  in  view 
the  capture  of  her  wig. 

What  a  beautiful,  beautiful  story  the  "  War 
Trail '  was — with  its  white  horse  of  the  prairie 
which  would  not  be  caught.  How  one  thrilled 
and  palpitated  in  the  reading  of  it.  It  opened  the 
gateway  to  the  world  of  the  prairie,  where  the 
herds  of  wild  horse  swept  the  plain,  where  buffa- 
loes stampeded,  and  Indian  chieftains,  magnifi- 
cent and  ferocious  and  always  covered  with  wam- 
pum (whatever  wampum  might  be),  pursued  heroes 
and  heroines  alike. 

And  the  delight  of  Ainsworth's  "  Tower  of  Lon- 
don." That  beloved  book  with  the  queer  illus- 
trations. The  pictures  of  Og,  Gog,  and  Magog, 
and  Xit  the  Dwarf,  Mauger  the  Headsman,  the 
crafty  Renard,  the  Princess  Elizabeth  with  Cour- 
tenay  kneeling  at  her  feet,  and  poor  embittered 
Queen  Mary  looking  on. 

What  a  place  it  was  for  a  Small  Person  to  wan- 
der through  in  shuddering  imaginings,  through 


Literature  and  the  Doll  61 

the  dark,  dank  subterranean  passages,  where  the 
rats  scurried,  and  where  poor  IT  ad  Alexia  roamed, 
persecuted  by  her  jailer.  One  passed  by  dun- 
geons where  noble  prisoners  pined  through  years 
of  dying  life,  one  mounted  to  towers  where  queens 
had  waited  to  be  beheaded,  one  was  led  with 
chilling  blood  through  the  dark  Traitors'  Gate. 
But  one  reached  sometime  or  other  the  huge 
kitchen  and  servitors'  hall,  where  there  was  such 
endless  riotous  merriment,  where  so  much  "  sack  ' 
and  "  Canary  '  was  drunk,  where  there  were 
great  rounds  of  roast  beef,  and  "  venison  pasties," 
and  roast  capons,  and  even  peacocks,  and  where 
they  ate  "  manchets  "  of  bread  and  "  quaffed  "  their 
flagons  of  nut-brown  ale,  and  addressed  each  other 
as  "  Sirrah  "  and  "  Varlet  "  and  "  Knave  "  in  their 
elephantine  joking. 

Poor  little  Lady  Jane  Grey  !  Poor  handsome, 
misguided  Guilford  Dudley  !  Poor  anguished, 
terrified,  deluded  Northumberland  ! 

What  tragic,  historical  adventures  the  Doll 
passed  through  in  these  days ;  how  she  was 
crowned,  discrowned,  sentenced,  and  beheaded, 
and  what  horror  the  Nursery  felt  of  wretched, 
unloved,  heretic-burning  Bloody  Mary !  And 
through  these  tragedies  the  Nursery  Sofa  almost 
invariably  accompanied  her  as  palfrey,  scaffold, 
dungeon,  or  barge  from  which  she  "  stepped  to 
proudly,  sadly  pass  the  Traitors'  Gate." 


62       77ie   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

And  if  the  Nursery  Sofa,  was  an  endeared  and 
interesting  object,  how  ungrateful  it  would  be  to 
ignore  the  charms  of  the  Green  Arm  Chair  in  the 
Sitting  Room,  the  Sitting  Room  Cupboard,  and 
the  Sitting  Room  Table.  It  would  seem  simply 
graceless  and  irreverent  to  write  the  names  of 

o 

these  delightful  objects,  as  if  they  were  mere 
common  nouns,  without  a  title  to  capital  letters. 
They  were  benevolent  friends  who  lent  their  aid 
in  the  carrying  out  of  all  sorts  of  fascinating  epi- 
sodes, who  could  be  confided  in,  as  it  were,  and 
trusted  never  to  laugh  when  things  were  going 
on,  however  dramatic  they  might  be. 

The  sitting-room  was  only  a  small  one,  but  some- 
how it  had  an  air  of  seclusion.  It  was  not  the  cus- 
tom to  play  in  it,  but  when  nobody  was  there  and 
the  nursery  was  specially  active  it  had  powerful 
attractions.  One  could  go  in  there  with  the  Doll 
and  talk  to  one's  self  when  the  door  was  shut, 
with  perfect  freedom  from  fear  of  listeners.  And 
there  was  the  substantial  sober-looking  Arm  Chair 
-as  sober  and  respectable  as  the  Nursery  Sofa, 
and  covered  with  the  same  green  stuff,  and  it 
could  be  transformed  into  a  "  bark  "  of  any  de- 
scription from  a  pinnace  to  a  gondola,  a  canoe,  or 
a  raft  set  afloat  by  the  survivors  of  a  sinking  ship 
to  drift  for  weeks  upon  "  the  trackless  ocean  ' 
without  water  or  food. 

Little  incidents  of  this  description  were  contimi- 


Literature  and  the  Doll  63 

ally  taking-  place  in  the  career  of  the  Doll.  She 
was  accustomed  to  them.  Not  a  hair  of  her  wig 
turned  at  the  agreeable  prospect  of  being  barely 
rescued  from  a  burning  ship,  of  being  pursued 
all  over  the  Indian  Ocean  or  the  Pacific  by  a  "  rak- 
ish-looking craft,"  flying  the  black  flag  and  known 
to  be  manned  by  a  crew  of  bloodthirsty  pirates 
whose  amusement  of  making  captives  walk  the 
plank  was  alternated  by  the  scuttling  of  ships.  It 
was  the  head  pirate's  habit  to  attire  himself  almost 
wholly  in  cutlasses  and  pistols,  and  to  greet  the 
appearance  of  any  prepossessing  female  captive 
with  the  blood-curdling  announcement,  "She 
shall  be  mine  !  '  But  the  Doll  did  not  mind  that 
in  the  least,  and  it  only  made  it  thrilling  for  the 
hero  who  had  rescued  her  from  the  burning  ship. 
It  was  also  the  opinion  of  the  Small  Person  that  no 
properly  constituted  pirate  chief  could  possibly 
omit  greeting  a  female  captive  in  this  manner — it 
rather  took,  in  fact,  the  form  of  a  piratical  custom. 
The  sitting-room  floor  on  these  occasions  repre- 
sented mid-ocean — the  Pacific,  the  Indian,  or  the 
Mediterranean  Sea,  their  waters  being  so  infested 
with  sharks  and  monsters  of  the  deep  (in  order 
that  the  hero  might  plunge  in  and  rescue  the  Doll, 
whose  habit  it  was  to  fall  overboard)  that  it  was  a 
miracle  that  it  was  possible  at  all  to  steer  the  Green 
Arm  Chair. 

But  how  nobly  and  with   what  nautical  skill  it 


64       The   One  I  Knciv  the  Best  of  All 

was  steered  by  the  hero  !  The  crew  was  neces- 
sarily confined  to  the  Doll  and  this  unconquer- 
able beinsj — because  the  Green  Arm  Chair  was  not 


big. 

But  notwithstanding  his  heroic  conduct,  the 
cold  judgment  of  maturer  years  has  led  me  to  be- 
lieve that  this  young  man's  mind  must  either  have 
been  enfeebled  by  the  hardships  through  which 
he  had  passed,  or  that  the  ardor  of  his  passion  for 
the  Doll  had  caused  his  intellect  to  totter  on  its 
throne.  I  am  led  to  this  conviction  by  my  dis- 
tinct recollection  of  the  fact  that  on  the  occasion 
of  some  of  their  most  perilous  voyages,  when  the 
Doll  had  been  rescued  at  the  peril  of  his  noble 
life,  the  sole  article  which  he  rescued  with  her,  as 
being  of  practical  value  upon  a  raft,  was  a  musical 
instrument.  An  indifferent  observer  who  had  seen 
this  instrument  in  the  hand  of  the  Small  Person 
might  have  coarsely  supposed  it  to  be  a  tin  whistle 
-of  an  order  calculated  to  make  itself  specially  un- 
pleasant--but  to  the  hero  of  the  raft  and  to  the 
doll  it  was  known  as  "  a  lute."  Why,  with  his 
practical  knowledge  of  navigation,  the  hero  should 
have  felt  that  a  rescued  young  lady  on  a  raft,  with- 
out food  or  water,  might  be  sustained  in  moments 
of  collapse  from  want  of  nutrition  by  performances 
upon  the  "  lute  "  only  persons  of  deep  feeling  and 
sentiment  could  explain.  But  the  lute  was  there 
and  the  hero  played  on  it,  in  intervals  of  being 


Literature  and  the  Doll  65 

pursued  by  pirates  or  perishing  from  starvation, 
with  appropriately  self-sacrificing  sentiments. 
For  myself  I  have  since  thought  that  possibly  the 
tendency  the  Doll  developed  for  falling  into  the 
depths  of  the  ocean  arose  from  an  unworthy  desire 
to  distract  the  attention  of  her  companion  from  his 
musical  rhapsodies.  He  was,  of  course,  obliged 
to  lay  his  instrument  aside  while  he  leaped  over- 
board and  rescued  her  from  the  sharks,  and  she 
may  have  preferred  that  he  should  be  thus  en- 
gaged. Were  my  nature  more  hardened  than 
years  have  as  yet  made  it  I  might  even  say  that  at 
times  she  perhaps  thought  that  the  sharks  might 
make  short  work  of  his  lute — or  himself — and  there 
may  have  been  moments  when  she  scarcely  cared 
which.  It  must  be  irritating  to  be  played  to  on  a 
lute,  when  one  is  perishing  slowly  from  inanition. 
But  ah  !  the  voyages  in  the  Green  Arm  Chair, 
the  seas  it  sailed,  the  shores  it  touched,  the  en- 
chanted islands  it  was  cast  upon  !  The  Small 
Person  has  never  seen  them  since.  They  were  of 
the  fair  world  she  used  to  see  as  she  lay  upon  her 
back  on  the  grass  in  the  Back  Garden  of  Eden, 
and  looked  up  into  the  sky  where  the  white  islands 
floated  in  the  blue.  One  could  long  for  a  no 
more  perfect  thing  than  that ;  after  the  long  years 
of  wandering  on  mere,  earth,  one  might  find  them 
again,  somewhere  -  -  somewhere.  Who  knows 

where  ? 
5 


66       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

How  surprised  the  governess  would  have  been, 
how  amused  the  mamma,  how  derisive  in  their  ri- 
bald way  the  brothers,  if  they  had  known  that  the 
Sitting  Room  Cupboard  was  a  temple  in  Central 
America — that  the  strange  pigmy  remnants  of  the 
Aztec  royal  race  were  kept  there  and  worshipped 
as  gods,  and  that  bold  explorers,  hearing  of  their 
mysterious  existence,  went  in  search  of  them  in 
face  of  all  danger  and  difficulty  and  with  craft  and 
daring  discovered  and  took  them  away.  All 
these  details  were  in  a  penny  pamphlet  which  had 
been  sold  at  the  hall  of  exhibition  where  the  two 
Aztec  dwarfs  had  been  on  view,  the  object  of  the 
scientific  explorer  having  apparently  been  to  make 
a  good  thing  of  them  by  exhibiting  them  at  a  shil- 
ling a  head,  children  half  price. 

The  Small  Person  had  not  been  taken  to  see 
them  ;  in  fact,  it  is  possible  that  the  exhibition  had 
not  belonged  to  her  time.  But  at  some  time, 
some  member  of  her  family  must  have  been  of 
their  audience,  for  there  was  the  pamphlet,  with 
extraordinary  woodcuts  of  the  explorers,  wood- 
cuts of  the  Aztecs  with  their  dwarfed  bodies  and 
strange  receding  profiles,  and  woodcuts  of  the 
temple  where  they  had  been  worshipped  as  the 
last  remnant  of  a  once  magnificent,  now  practi- 
cally extinct,  royal  race. 

The  woodcuts  were  very  queer,  and  the  Temple 
was  apparently  a  ruin,  whose  massive  broken  and 


Literature  and  the  Doll  67 

fallen  columns  made  it  all  the  more  a  place  to 
dwell  upon  in  wild  imaginative  dreams.  Restored, 
in  the  Sitting  Room  Cupboard,  it  was  a  majestic 
pile.  Mystic  ceremonials  were  held  there,  splen- 
did rites  were  solemnized.  The  Doll  took  part  in 
them,  the  Small  Person  officiated.  Both  of  them 
explored,  both  discovered  the  Aztecs.  To  clo  so 
it  was  necessary  to  kneel  on  the  floor  with  one's 
head  inside  the  cupboard  while  the  scenes  were 
enacted,  but  this  in  no  wise  detracted  from  the 
splendor  of  their  effect  and  the  intensity  of  their 
interest.  Nothing  could. 

The  Sitting  Room  Table  must  have  been  adorned 
with  a  cover  much  too  large  for  it,  or  else  in  those 
days  table-covers  were  intended  to  be  large.  This 
one  hung  down  so  far  over  the  table  that  when  one 
sat  on  the  floor  underneath  it  with  the  Doll,  it  be- 
came a  wigwam.  The  Doll  was  a  squaw  and  the 
Small  Person  a  chief.  They  smoked  the  calumet 
and  ate  maize,  and  told  each  other  stories  of  the 
war-trail  and  the  happy  hunting-grounds.  They 
wore  moccasins,  and  feathers,  and  wampum,  and 
brought  up  papooses,  and  were  very  happy.  Their 
natures  were  mild.  They  never  scalped  anyone, 
though  the  tomahawk  was  as  much  a  domestic 
utensil  as  the  fire-irons  might  have  been  if  they 
had  had  an  Indian  flavor.  That  it  was  dark  under 
the  enshrouding  table-cloth  made  the  wigwam  all 
the  more  realistic.  A  wigwam  with  bay  windows 


68       The  One  I  Kneiu  the  Best  of  All 

and  a  chandelier  would  not  have  been  according 
to  Mayne  Reid  and  Fenimore  Cooper.  And  it 
was  so  shut  out  from  the  world  there,  one  could 
declaim — in  undertones — with  such  freedom.  It 
seemed  as  if  surely  outside  the  wall  of  the  table- 
cloth there  was  no  world  at  all — no  real  world- 
it  was  all  under  the  Sitting  Room  Table — inside 
the  wigwam.  Since  then  I  have  often  wondered 
what  the  grown-up  people  thought,  who,  coming 
into  the  room,  saw  the  table-cloth  drawn  down, 
and  heard  a  little  voice  whispering,  whispering, 
whispering  beneath  its  shadow.  Sometimes  the 
Small  Person  did  not  know  when  they  came  or 
went,  she  was  so  deeply  absorbed — so  far  away. 

Ah,  the  world  went  very  well  then.  It  was  a 
wonderful  world — so  full  of  story  and  adventure 
and  romance.  One  did  not  need  trunks  and  rail- 
roads ;  one  could  go  to  Central  America,  to  Cen- 
tral Africa — to  Central  Anywhere — on  the  arm  of 
the  Nursery  Sofa — on  the  wings  of  the  Green 
Arm  Chair — under  the  cover  of  the  Sitting  Room 
Table. 

There  is  a  story  of  the  English  painter  Watts 
which  I  always  remember  as  a  beautiful  and 
subtle  thing,  though  it  is  only  a  brief  anecdote. 

He  painted  a  picture  of  Covent  Garden  Mar- 
ket, which  was  a  marvel  of  picturesque  art  and 
meaning.     One    of  his    many    visitors — a   lady- 
looked  at  it  long  and  rather  doubtfully. 


Literature  and  the  Doll  69 

"  Well,  Mr.  Watts,"  she  said,  "  this  is  all  very 
beautiful,  of  course,  but  /  know  Covent  Garden 
Market  and  I  must  confess  /  have  never  seen  it 
look  like  this." 

"No?"  replied  Watts.  And  then,  looking  at 
her  thoughtfully.  "  Don't  you  wish  you  could  ! ' 

It  was  so  pertinent  to  many  points  of  view. 

As  one  looks  back  across  the  thousand  years  of 
one's  life,  to  the  time  when  one  saw  all  things  like 
this — recognizing  how  far  beyond  the  power  of 
maturer  years  it  is  to  see  them  so  again — one  says 
with  half  a  smile,  and  more  than  half  a  sigh  : 

"  Ah,  does  not  one  wish  one  could  ! ' 


CHAPTER  V. 

Islington  Square. 

IT  was  one  of  those  rather  interesting  places 
which  one  finds  in  all  large  English  towns — places 
which  have  seen  better  days.  They  are  only  in- 
teresting on  this  account.  Their  early  picturesque- 
ness  has  usually  been  destroyed  by  the  fact 
that  a  railroad  has  forced  its  way  into  their  neigh- 
borhood, or  factories,  and  their  accompanying 
cottages  for  operatives,  have  sprung  up  around 
them.  Both  these  things  had  happened  to  Isling- 
ton Square,  and  only  the  fact  that  it  was  an  en- 
closed space,  shut  in  by  a  large  and  quite  impos- 
ing iron  gateway,  aided  it  to  retain  its  atmosphere 
of  faded  gentility.  Such  places  are  often  full  of 
story,  though  they  have  no  air  of  romance  about 
them.  The  people  who  live  in  them  have  them- 
selves usually  seen  better  days.  They  are  often- 
est  widowed  ladies  with  small  incomes,  and  itn- 
widowed  gentlemen  with  large  families — people 
who,  not  having  been  used  to  cramped  quarters, 
are  glad  to  find  houses  of  good  size  at  a  reduced 
rent. 

Some  of  the  houses  in   the  Square  were  quite 


Islington  Square  7 1 

• 

stately  in  proportion,  and  in  their  better  days 
must  have  been  fine  enough  places.  But  that 
halcyon  period  was  far  in  the  past.  Islington 
Hall — the  most  imposing  structure — was  a  "  Select 
Seminary  for  young  ladies  and  gentlemen  ;"  its 
companion  house  stood  empty  and  deserted,  as 
also  did  several  others  of  the  largest  ones,  prob- 
ably because  the  widowed  ladies  and  unwidowed 
gentlemen  coulcl  not  afford  the  corps  of  servants 
which  would  have  been  necessary  to  keep  them 
in  order. 

In  the  centre  of  the  Square  was  a  Lamp  Post. 
1  write  it  with  capital  letters  because  it  was  not 
an  ordinary  lamp  post.  It  was  a  very  big  one, 
and  had  a  solid  base  of  stone,  which  all  the 
children  thought  had  been  put  there  for  a  seat. 
Four  or  five  little  girls  could  sit  on  it,  and  four  or 
five  little  girls  usually  did  when  the  day  was  fine. 

Ah  !  the  things  which  were  talked  over  under 
the  Lamp  Post,  the  secrets  that  were  whispered, 
and  the  wrongs  that  were  discussed  !  In  the  win- 
ter, when  the  gas  was  lighted  at  four  o'clock, 
there  could  be  no  more  delightfully  secluded  spot 
for  friendly  conversation  than  the  stone  base  of 
the  lamp  which  cast  its  yellow  light  from  above. 

Was  it  worldly  pride  and  haughtiness  of  spirit 
which  gave  rise,  in  the  little  girls  who  lived  in 
the  Square,  to  a  sense  of  exclusiveness  which 
caused  them  to  resent  an  outside  little  girl's  en- 


72       The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 


• 
, 


tering  the  iron  gates  and  sitting  "  on  the  Lamp 
Post?"  They  always  spoke  of  it  as  "sitting  on 
the  Lamp  Post." 


Islington  Square  73 

"  Who  is  that  sitting  on  the  Lamp  Post  ?  "  would 
be  said  disapprovingly.  "  She  is  not  a  Square 
girl ;  we  don't  want  Street  children  sitting  on  our 
Lamp  Post." 

"  Street  children  "  were  those  who  lived  in  the 
streets  surrounding  the  Square,  and,  as  they  were 
in  most  cases  not  desirable  young  persons,  they 
were  not  considered  eligible  for  the  society  of 
"  Square  children  "  and  the  Lamp  Post. 

When  the  Small  Person  was  introduced  to  her 
first  copy  of  the  stories  of  Hans  Christian  Ander- 
sen, she  found  a  sketch  which  had  a  special  charm 
for  her.  It  was  called  "  The  Old  Street  Lamp," 
and  it  seemed  to  be  the  story  of  the  Lamp 
in  the  middle  of  the  Square.  It  seemed  to  ex- 
plain a  feeling  of  affection  she  had  always  had  for 
it — a  feeling  that  it  was  not  quite  an  inanimate 
object.  She  had  played  about  it  and  sat  on  the 
stone,  and  had  seen  it  lighted  so  often  that  she 
loved  it,  though  she  had  never  said  so  even  to 
herself.  She  slept  in  a  front  room  with  her  mam- 
ma, in  the  very  fourpost  bed  which  had  been  a 
feature  in  the  first  remembered  episode  of  her 
life.  Her  house  exactly  faced  the  Lamp  Post, 
and  at  night  its  light  shone  in  at  her  bedroom 
window  and  made  a  bright  patch  on  the  wall. 
She  used  to  lie  and  think  about  things  by  the 
gleam  of  it,  and  somehow  she  never  felt  quite 
alone.  She  would  have  missed  it  very  much  if 


74       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

it  had  not  watched  over  her.  At  that  time  street 
lamps  were  not  lighted  in  an  instant  by  a  magic 
wand.  A  lamplighter  came  with  a  ladder  over 
his  shoulder.  He  placed  the  ladder  against  the 
post  and  ran  up  it  with  what  seemed  astonishing 
rapidity,  and  after  lighting  the  gas  ran  down 
again,  shouldered  his  ladder,  and  walked  off. 

How  the  Small  Person  adored  the  novel  called 
"  The  Lamplighter  ;  '  how  familiar  the  friendly 
lamp  seemed  to  her,  and  how  she  loved  old  Uncle 
True  !  Was  there  ever  such  a  lovable  old  man- 
were  there  ever  sufferings  that  moved  one  to  such 
tears  as  Gerty's  ? 

The  Street  children,  as  I  have  said,  were  not 
considered  desirable  companions  for  the  "  Square 
children."  The  Square  was  at  that  time  a  sort  of 
oasis  in  the  midst  of  small  thoroughfares  and  back 

o 

streets,  where  factory  operatives  lived  and  where 
the  broadest  Lancashire  dialect  throve.  It  was 
difficult  enough  to  preserve  to  children  any  pu- 
rity of  enunciation  in  a  neighborhood  of  broad- 
est vowels,  and  as  manner  of  speech  is  in  England 
a  mark  of  breeding,  association  with  the  Street 
children  was  not  encouraged. 

o 

But  the  Small  Person  adored  Street  children. 
She  adored  above  all  things  the  dialect  they 
spoke,  and  the  queer  things  they  said.  To  stray 
into  a  forbidden  back  street  and  lure  a  dirty  little 
factory  child  into  conversation  was  a  delight.  To 


Islington  Square  75 

stand  at  the  iron  gateway  at  twelve  o'clock  and 
see  the  factory  people  streaming  past>  and  hear 
the  young  women  in  tied-back  aprons  and  with 
shawls  over  their  heads,  shouting  friendly  or  de- 
risive chaff  to  the  young  men  and  boys  in  cordu- 
roys, was  as  good  as  a  play — in  fact,  a  great  deal 
better  than  most  plays. 

She  learned  to  speak  the  dialect  as  well  as  any 
of  them,  though  it  was  a  furtively  indulged  in  ac- 
complishment. She  had  two  or  three  clever  little 
girl  friends  who  were  fluent  in  it,  and  who  used 
it  with  a  rich  sense  of  humor.  They  used  to  tell 
each  other  stories  in  it,  and  carry  on  animated 
conversations  without  losing  a  shade  of  its  flavor. 

O 

They  said,  "  Wilt  tha'  and  "  Wheer  art  goin'," 
and  "  Sithee  lass,"  and  "  Eh  !  tha  young  besom, 
tha! "  with  an  easy  familiarity  which  they  did  not 
display  in  the  matter  of  geography.  There  was  a 
very  dirty  little  boy  whose  family  lived  rent  free,  as 
care-takers  in  one  of  the  deserted  big  houses,  and 
this  dirty  little  boy  was  a  fount  of  joy.  He  had  a 
disreputable  old  grandfather  who  was  perennially 
drunk,  and  to  draw  forth  from  Tommy,  in  broad- 
est Lancashire  dialect,  a  cheerfully  realistic  de- 
scription of  "  Granfeyther  '  in  his  cups,  was  an 
entertainment  not  to  be  despised.  Granfeyther's 
weakness  was  regarded  by  Tommy  in  the  light  of 
an  amiable  solecism,  and  his  philosophical  good 
spirits  over  the  matter  presented  a  point  of  view 


76       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All  \ 

picturesquely  novel  to  the  Small  Person  and  her 
friends.  "  Eh  !  tha  should  heer  my  Granfeyther 
sweer  when  he's  drunk,"  Tommy  would  remark, 
with  an  air  of  triumph  suggesting  a  decent  family 
pride.  "  Tha  shouldst  just  heer  him.  Tha  never 
heerd  nothin'  loike  it — tha  didn't ! '  with  an  evi- 
dent sense  of  the  limited  opportunities  of  good 
society. 

It  was  the  habit  of  the  Small  Person  to  sit  upon 
the  floor  before  one  of  the  drawing-room  windows 
each  evening,  and  learn  her  lessons  for  the  next 
day  ;  and  on  one  of  these  occasions  she  saw  a  creat- 
ure who  somehow  puzzled  and  interested  her  in- 
tensely, though  she  could  not  have  explained  why. 

It  was  part  of  an  unwritten  law  that  people 
who  did  not  occupy  houses  in  the  Square  should 
not  come  into  it,  unless  they  had  business.  This 
possibly  arose  from  the  fact  that  it  was  not  a 
thoroughfare,  and  there  was  really  no  reason 
why  outsiders  should  pass  the  iron  gates. 

When  they  did  they  were  always  regarded 
with  curiosity  until  one  knew  what  they  wanted. 
This  limitation,  in  fact,  gave  the  gravelled  en- 
closure surrounded  by  factories  and  small  streets 
something  the  social  atmosphere  of  a  tiny,  rather 
gossipy,  country  town.  Each  household  knew 
the  other,  and  had  a  knowledge  of  its  affairs  only 
limited  by  the  characteristics  and  curiosities  of 
the  members. 


Islington  Square  77 

So,  on  this  particular  evening,  when  the  Small 
Person,  hearing  voices,  looked  up  from  her  geog- 
raphy to  see  a  group  of  stranger  children  gath- 
ered about  the  Lamp  Post,  she  put  her  elbows  on 
the  window-sill  and  her  cheeks  on  her  hands,  and 
looked  out  at  them  with  interest. 

They  were  evidently  not  only  "  Street  children," 
but  they  were  "  Back  Street  children,"  a  race 
more  exciting  to  regard  as  objects,  because  their 
customs  and  language  were,  as  it  were,  exotic. 
"  Back  Street  children  "  ahvays  spoke  the  dialect, 
and  the  adult  members  of  their  families  almost 
invariably  worked  in  the  factories — often,  indeed, 
the  children  worked  there  themselves.  In  that 
locality  the  atmosphere  of  fas  foyer  was  frequent- 
ly of  a  lively  nature,  generally  the  heads  of  the 
families  evinced  a  marked  partiality  for  beer,  and 
spent  their  leisure  moments  in  consuming  "pots" 
of  it  at  "  th'  Public."  This  not  uncommonly  re- 
sulted in  argument  of  a  spirited  nature,  entered 
into,  quite  probably,  in  the  street,  carried  on  inco- 
herently, but  with  vigor,  on  the  door-steps,  and 
settled — with  the  fire-irons  or  portable  domestic 
articles — in  the  home  circle.  Frequently  these 
differences  of  opinion  were  terminated  with  the 
assistance  of  one  or  more  policemen  ;  and  while 
the  discussions  were  being  carried  on  the  street 
was  always  filled  with  a  mob  of  delighted  and 
eagerly  sympathetic  neighbors.  Feeling  always 


78       The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

ran  high  among  the  ladies,  who  usually  stood  and 
regarded  the  scene  with  arms  akimbo. 

"  A  noice  chap  he  is !  "  it  would  be  said  some- 
times. "  He  broke  th'  beer  jug  ower  'er  'ed  two 
weeks  sin',  an'  now  he's  give  her  a  graidely  black 
eye.  He  out  to  be  put  i'  th'  Lockups." 

Or— 

"  No  wonder  he  gi'es  her  a  hidin'.  Her  spends 
all  his  wage  at  th'  Black  Pig  i'  th'  beer.  She  was 
drunk  o'  Thursday,  an'  drunk  o'  Friday,  an'  now 
she's  gettin'  ready  fur  Saturday  neet." 

"  A  row  in  Islington  Court ! "  or  "  A  row  in 
Back  Sydney  Street.  Man  beating  his  wife  with 
a  shovel !  '  was  a  cry  which  thrilled  the  bolder 
juvenile  spirits  of  the  Square  with  awesome  de- 
light. There  were  even  fair  little  persons  who 
hovered  shudderingly  about  the  big  gates,  or  even 
passed  them,  in  the  shocked  hope  of  seeing  a 
policeman  march  by  with  somebody  in  custody. 

And  the  strangers  gathered  about  the  Lamp 
Post  were  of  this  world. 

They  were  half  a  dozen  girls  or  more.  Most  of 
them  factory  girls  in  print  frocks,  covered  by  the 
big  coarse  linen  apron,  which  was  tied  all  the  way 
down  the  back  to  confine  their  skirts,  and  keep 
them  from  being  caught  by  the  machinery.  They 
had  no  bonnets  on,  and  they  wore  clogs  on  their 
feet.  They  were  all  the  ordinary  type  of  small 
factory  girl — all  but  one.  Why  did  the  Small 


Islington  Square  79 

Person  find  her  eyes  fixed  upon  that  one,  and  fol- 
lowing her  movements  ?  She  was  bigger  than 
the  others,  and  seemed  more  mature,  though  a 
child  could  not  have  explained  why.  She  was 
dressed  exactly  as  they  were — print  frock,  tied- 
back  apron,  clogs,  and  bare  head,  and  she  held 
a  coarse  blue  worsted  stocking,  which  she  was 
knitting  as  she  talked.  It  did  not  occur  to  the 
Small  Person  that  she  was  beautiful.  At  that  age 
beauty  meant  to  her  something  with  pink  cheeks 
and  sparkling  blue  or  black  eyes,  and  sweetly 
curled  hair,  and  a  charming  frock.  Not  a  strange- 
looking,  colorless  factory  girl,  knitting  a  worsted 
stocking  and  wearing  wooden  clogs.  Certainly  not. 

And  yet  at  that  girl  she  stared,  quite  forgetting 
her  geography. 

The  other  girls  were  the  ordinary  rough  lot, 
talking  loudly,  bouncing  about  and  pushing  each 
other.  But  this  one  was  not  playing  at  all.  She 
stood  or  moved  about  a  little,  with  a  rather  meas- 
ured movement,  knitting  all  the  time  her  blue 
worsted  stocking.  She  was  about  sixteen,  but 
of  rather  massive  and  somehow  majestic  mould. 
The  Small  Person  would  have  said  she  was  "  big 
and  slow,"  if  she  had  been  trying  to  describe  her. 
She  had  a  clear,  colorless  face,  deep,  large  gray 
eyes,  slender,  but  strong,  straight  black  brows, 
and  a  rather  square  chin  with  a  cleft  in  it.  Her 
hair  was  dark  and  had  a  slight  large  wave,  it 


8o      The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

was  thick  and  drawn  into  a  heavy  knot  on  the 
nape  of  her  neck,  which  was  fine  and  full  like  a 
pillar,  and  held  her  head  in  a  peculiar  stately  way. 

The  Small  Person,  as  she  watched  her,  came  to 
the  decision  that  there  was  "  something  the  mat- 
ter with  her." 

"  What  is  it?"  she  said,  mentally,  with  a  puzzled 
and  impressed  feeling.  "  She's  not  a  bit  like  the 
others.  She  does  not  look  like  a  Back  Street  girl 
:it  all,  though  she  has  got  clogs  on.  Somehow 
she's  different." 

That  was  it.  She  was  different.  That  was 
why  one  could  not  return  to  one's  geography 
while  one  could  watch  her. 

Her  companions  seemed  to  appeal  to  her  as  if 
she  were  a  sort  of  power  and  influence.  She 
seemed  to  control  them  when  they  made  too  much 
noise,  though  she  went  on  knitting  her  stocking. 
The  windows  were  closed,  and  it  was  not  possible 
to  hear  what  was  said,  but  occasional  loudly  spoken 
dialect  words  or  phrases  reached  the  Small  Person. 
The  group  did  not  stay  long,  and  when  it  went  the 
one  who  was  "  different "  led  it,  and  the  looker-on 
watched  her  out  of  sight,  and  pondered  a  mo- 
ment or  so  with  her  nose  flattened  against  the 
glass,  before  she  went  back  to  her  geography. 

One  evening  the  next  week,  at  about  the  same 
time,  the  same  group  appeared  again.  The  Small 
Person  was  again  on  the  floor  with  her  lessons  on 


Islington  Square  81 

her  knee,  the  factory  girls  were  still  laughing  and 
boisterous,  and  the  one  who  was  different  was 
again  knitting. 

The  Small  Person  shuffled  all  her  books  off  her 
knee  and  let  them  drop  in  a  heap  on  the  carpet. 
She  put  her  elbows  on  the  window-sill  again,  and 
gave  herself  up  to  absorbed  contemplation. 

That  the  other  girls  shouted  and  giggled  was 
not  interesting,  but  it  was  interesting  to  see  how, 
in  the  midst  of  the  giggles  and  shouts,  the  big  one 
seemed  a  stately,  self-contained  creature  who  be- 
longed to  another  world.  Somehow  she  seemed 
strangely  to  suggest  a  story  which  one  could  not 
read,  and  of  which  one  could  not  guess  at  the  plot. 

When  she  grew  older  and  knew  more  of  people 
and  lives  and  characters,  the  Small  Person  guessed 
that  she  was  a  story — this  strong,  pale  creature 
with  the  stately  head  and  square-cleft  chin.  She 
was  that  saddest  story  of  all,  which  is  beauty  and 
fineness  and  power — a  splendid  human  thing  born 
into  a  world  to  which  she  does  not  belong  by  any 
kinship,  and  in  which  she  must  stand  alone  and 
struggle  in  silence  and  suffer.  This  was  what  was 
the  matter  with  her,  this  was  why  a  ten-year-old 
child,  bearing  in  her  own  breast  a  thermometer 
of  the  emotions,  dropped  her  lesson-books  to  look 
at  her,  and  gazed  restless  and  dissatisfied  because 
she  could  not  explain  to  herself  why  this  one  was 

"  different." 
6 


82       The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

This  evening  the  group  did  not  leave  the  place 
as  they  had  done  before. 

Some  girl,  turning  round  toward  the  entrance, 
caught  sight  of  an  approaching  figure,  and  has- 
tily, and  evidently  in  some  consternation,  elbowed 
a  companion.  Then  they  all  looked. 

A  man  was  coming  toward  them — an  ill-looking 
brute  in  corduroys,  with  his  hands  in  his  pockets 
and  a  moleskin  cap  pulled  over  his  brows.  He 
slouched  forward  as  if  he  were  in  a  bad  temper. 

"  Here's  thy  feyther ! '  cried  one  of  the  girls. 
And  she  said  it  to  the  one  who  was  knitting.  She 
looked  at  the  advancing  man  and  went  on  knitting 
as  if  nothing  was  occurring.  The  Small  Person 
would  have  given  all  her  lesson-books — particu- 
larly the  arithmetic — to  know  what  he  had  come 
for.  She  knew  the  kind  of  man.  He  usually 
drank  a  great  deal  of  beer  and  danced  on  his  wife 
in  his  clogs  when  depressed  or  irritated.  Some- 
times he  "  punsed  '  her  to  death  if  he  had  been 
greatly  annoyed,  and  females  were  rather  afraid 
of  him. 

But  the  girl  with  the  deep  eyes  and  straight 
black  brows  evidently  was  not.  She  was  also  evi- 
dently used  to  him.  lie  went  up  to  her  and 
addressed  her  with  paternal  blasphemy.  He 
seemed  to  be  ordering1  her  to  go  home.  He 

o  o 

growled  and  bullied  her,  and  threatened  her  with 
his  fist. 


Islington  Square 


The  Small  Person  had  a  horrible  fear  that  he 
would  knock  her  down  and  kick  her,  as  was  the 
custom  of  his  class.  She  felt  she  could  not  bear 
it,  and  had  a  wild  idea  of  dashing  out  somewhere 
for  a  policeman. 


But  the  girl  was  different.  She  looked  him 
straight  in  the  brutal  face  and  went  on  knitting. 
Then  she  turned  and  walked  slowly  out  of  the 
Square.  He  walked  behind  her,  threatening  her 
at  intervals  with  his  fist  and  his  lifted  clog. 


84       The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

"  Dom  tha  brazent  impidence  !  "  the  Small  Per- 
son heard  him  say  once. 

But  the  girl  walked  calmly  before  him  without 
a  word  or  a  hurried  movement.  She  went  on 
knitting  the  stocking  until  she  turned  the  corner 
and  disappeared  for  the  last  time  from  the  Small 
Person's  sympathetic  gaze.  She  also  disappeared 
from  her  life,  for  the  little  girl  never  saw  her 
again. 

But  she  thought  of  her  often  and  pondered  her 
over,  and  felt  her  a  power  and  a  mystery.  Not 
until  she  had  given  some  contemplative  thought 
to  various  antique  marbles,  and  had  wondered 
"  what  was  the  matter '  with  the  Venus  of 
Milo,  did  it  dawn  upon  her  mind  that  in  this  girl 
in  the  clogs  and  apron  she  had  seen  and  been 
overpowered  by  Beauty  such'  as  goddesses  were 
worshipped  for,  and  strength  such  as  should  be- 
long to  one  who  ruled.  She  always  wanted  to 
know  what  happened  afterward,  but  there  was 
no  end  to  the  story  that  she  ever  saw.  So  it  Avas 
that  some  years  later  she  Avrote  a  beginning,  a 
middle,  and  an  end  herself.  She  made  the  factory 
operative  a  Pit  Girl,  and  she  called  her  Joan 
Lowrie. 

There  was  such  food  for  the  imagination  in 
thus  living  surrounded  by  the  lives  of  streets  full 
of  people  who  belonged  to  another  world  than 
one's  own — a  world  whose  customs,  manners,  and 


Islington  Square  85 

language  were  wholly  foreign  in  one  sense- 
where  even  children  got  up  before  daylight  and 
went  to  their  work  in  the  big,  whirring,  oil-smell- 
ing factories — where  there  was  a  possibility  of  be- 
ing caught  by  the  machinery  and  carried  after- 
ward to  the  Infirmary,  followed  by  a  staring, 
pitying  crowd — a  broken,  bleeding  heap  of  human 
suffering  lying  decently  covered  on  a  stretcher. 
Such  accidents  were  such  horrors  that  to  a  child 
mind  they  seemed  always  impending,  though 
their  occurrence  was  not  frequent.  But  the  mere 
possibility  of  them  made  one  regard  these  peo- 
ple— who  lived  among  the  ghastly  wheels — with 
awe. 

On  the  same  floor  with  the  Nursery  was  a  room 
where  the  governess  slept,  presiding  over  an  ex- 
tra bed  which  contained  two  little  girls.  There 
was  a  period  when  for  some  reason  the  Small 
Person  was  one  of  them.  The  window  of  this 
room,  which  was  at  the  back,  looked  down  upon 
the  back  of  the  row  of  cottages  in  which  opera- 
tives lived.  When  one  glanced  downward  it  was 
easy  to  see  into  their  tiny  kitchens  and  watch 
them  prepare  their  breakfasts,  and  eat  them  too, 
if  one  were  curious. 

Imagine,  then,  the  interest  of  waking  very 
early  one  dark  winter's  morning  and  seeing  a 
light  reflected  on  the  ceiling  of  the  Nursery  bed- 
room from  somewhere  far  below. 


86       The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

The  Small  Person  did  this  once,  and  after 
watching  a  little,  discovered  that  not  only  the 
light  and  the  window  itself  were  reflected,  but 
two  figures  which  seemed  to  pass  before  it  or 
stand  near  it. 

It  was  too  exciting  to  watch  alone,  so  she  spoke 
to  her  sister,  who  slept  at  her  side. 

"  Edith  ! "  she  whispered,  cautiously,  for  fear  of 
disturbing  the  governess,  "  Edith,  do  wake  up. 
I  want  to  show  you  something."  The  prospect 
of  being  shown  something  in  what  appeared  to 
be  the  middle  of  the  night,  was  a  thing  to  break 
any  slumbers. 

Edith  turned  and  rubbed  her  eyes. 

"What  is  it?"  she  asked,  sleepily. 

"  It's  a  man  and  a  woman,"  whispered  the  Small 
Person,  half  under  the  bed-clothes,  "  Back  Street 
people  in  their  kitchen.  You  can  see  them  on  our 
ceiling.  This  ceiling;  just  look." 

Edith  looked.  Back  Street  people  always 
awakened  curiosity. 

"  So  we  can,"  she  said,  with  a  carefully 
smothered  giggle.  "  There  the  woman  is  now  ! ' 

"  She's  got  something  in  her  hand,"  said  the 
Small  Person.  "  It  looks  like  a  loaf." 

"  It's  a  piece  of  something!'  whispered  Edith. 

"  It  must  be  a  loaf,"  said  the  Small  Person. 
"  They're  factory  people,  and  the  man's  wife  must 
be  getting  his  breakfast  before  he  goes  to 


Islington  Sqitare  87 

work.      I    wonder   what   poor   people    have    for 
breakfast?" 

"  There's  the  man  ! "  exclaimed  Edith,  with  so 
much  animation  that  the  governess  turned  in  her 
sleep. 

"  Hush,"  warned  the  Small  Person ;  "  she'll 
wake  up  and  scold  us  for  making  a  noise." 

"  The  man  is  washing  his  face  on  the  dresser," 
said  Edith,  in  more  discreet  tones.  "  We  can  see 
what  they  do  when  they  are  near  the  window.  I 
can  see  him  rubbing  and  wiggling  his  head." 

"  So  can  I,"  said  the  Small  Person.  "  Isn't  it 
fun  ?  1  hope  the  roller-towel  is  near  the  window." 

The  little  whispers,  cautious  as  they  were,  pen- 
etrated the  drowsy  ears  of  the  governess.  She 
half  awakened. 

x  "  Children,"  she  said,  "  what  are  you  whisper- 
ing about  ?  Don't  be  so  naughty.  Go  to  sleep  ! ' 
All  very  well  for  a  sleepy  governess,  but  for  two 
little  persons  awake  at  four  o'clock,  and  with 
front  seats  at  a  Back  Street  panorama  on  their 
own  bedroom  ceiling,  ridiculously  out  of  the 
question. 

Ah,  the  charm  of  it !  The  sense  of  mystery  and 
unusualness.  It  seemed  the  middle  of  the  night. 
In  all  the  bedrooms  through  the  house  every  one 
was  asleep — the  servants,  the  brothers,  mamma, 
the  very  Doll  had  had  her  wire  pulled  and  her 
wax  eyelids  drawn  clown.  Being  awake  had  the 


88       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

charms  of  nursery  guilt  in  it.  It  was  naughty  to 
be  awake,  and  it  was  breaking  rules  to  talk.  But 
how  could  one  go  to  sleep  with  the  rest  when  the 
Back  Street  woman  was  awake  and  getting  }ier 

C5  O 

husband's  breakfast.  One's  own  ceiling  reflected 
it  and  seemed  to  include  one  in  the  family  circle. 

"  If  they  hada  fight,"  whispered  Edith,  "  we 
could  see  it." 

There  was  no  end  of  speculation  to  be  indulged 
in.  What  each  figure  was  really  doing  when  it 
was  near  enough  to  the  window  to  be  reflected, 
what  it  did  when  it  moved  away  out  of  the  range 
of  reflection,  and  what  it  was  possible  they  said 
to  each  other,  were  all  things  to  be  excitedly 
guessed  at,  and  to  endanger  the  repose  of  the 
governess. 

"  Edith,  you  are  a  naughty  girl,"  she  said. 
"  Frances,  I  shall  speak  to  your  mamma.  Edith 
would  not  be  whispering  if  you  were  not  with  her. 
Go  to  sleep  this  instant ! '  As  if  going  to  sleep 
was  a  thing  done  by  touching  an  electric  button. 

How  they  longed  to  creep  out  of  bed,  and  peep 
through  the  window  down  into  the  Back  Street 
people's  kitchen  itself.  But  that  was  out  o!  the 
question.  Neither  of  them  would  have  dared 
such  an  insubordination — the  first  morning,  at 
least. 

But  there  were   other  such   morningrs.     It  be- 

o 

came  a  habit  to  waken  at  that  delightful  and  un- 


Islington  Square  89 

canny  hour,  just  for  the  pleasure  of  lying  awake 
and  watching  the  Woman  and  the  Man.  That 
was  what  they  called  them.  They  never  knew 
what  their  names  were,  or  anything  about  them, 
except  what  was  reflected  during  that  early  break- 
fast hour  upon  the  ceiling. 

But  the  Small  Person  was  privately  attached  to 
them,  and  continually  tried  to  imagine  what  they 
said.  She  had  a  fancy  that  they  were  a  decent 
couple,  who  were  rather  fond  of  each  other,  and 
it  was  a  great  comfort  to  her  that  they  never  had 
a  fight. 


CHAPTER  VI. 

A   Confidence  Betrayed 

Is  the  age  of  seven  years  an  age  of  special  de- 
velopment, or  an  age  which  attracts  incidents  in- 
teresting, and  having  an  effect  on  life,  and  the 
formation  of  character?  As  I  look  back  I  remem- 
ber so  many  things  which  seemed  to  happen  to 
the  Small  Person  when  she  was  seven  years  old. 
She  was  seven,  or  thereabouts,  when  she  discov- 
ered the  Secretaire ;  seven  when  she  began  to 
learn  the  Lancashire  dialect,  and  study  Back 
Street  people ;  seven  when  she  first  saw  Death, 
with  solemn,  asking  eyes,  and  awe  in  her  soul  ; 
seven  when  she  wrote  her  first  inarticulate  story, 
which  was  a  poem  ;  and  seven  when  she  was  first 
brought  face  to  face  with  the  enormity  of  a  be- 
trayed confidence. 

Thank  God,  she  did  not  quite  realize  what  had 
happened  to  her,  and  that  her  innocence  gave 
every  reason  for  hope  disappointed,  but  the  true 
one,  that  she  had  been  trifled  with  and  deceived ; 
and  thank  Heaven,  also,  that  the  point  involved 
was  not  one  cruel  enough  to  leave  a  deep  wound. 
In  fact,  though  it  was  quite  a  serious  matter  with 


A    Confidence  Betrayed  91 

her,  she  was  more  mystified  and  disappointed 
than  hurt,  and  for  some  time  did  not  realize  that 
she  had  been  the  subject  of  one  of  maturity's 
jokes. 

She  had  a  passion  for  babies.  She  seldom  pre- 
tended that  the  Doll  was  a  baby,  but  a  baby — a 
new  baby — was  an  object  of  rapturous  delight  to 
her.  She  liked  them  very  new  indeed — quite  red, 
and  with  little  lace  caps  on,  and  disproportionately 
long  clothes.  She  never  found  them  so  delight- 
ful as  when  they  wore  long  clothes.  When  their 
frocks  were  made  short,  and  one  could  see  their 
little  red  or  white  shoes  kicking,  the  bloom  seemed 
to  have  gone  off — they  were  no  longer  real  babies. 
But  when  the  nurse  seemed  to  be  obliged  to  move 
them  carefully  lest  they  should  fall  into  minute 
fragments,  when  their  mouth  always  opened  when 
one  kissed  them,  and  when  they  were  fragrant  of 
warm  flannel,  warm  milk,  and  violet  powder,  they 
were  the  loves  of  her  yearning  little  soul. 

There  were  one  or  two  ladies  in  the  square  who 
were  given  to  new  babies,  and  when  one  of  their 
number  honored  the  neighborhood,  the  Small 
Person  was  always  one  of  the  first  to  hear  of  it. 

"Did  you  know,"  it  would  be  said  by  some 
little  individual,  "that  Mrs.  Roberts  has  got  a 
new  baby  ? ' 

Then  joy  would  reign  unconfined  in  the  Small 
Person's  breast.  The  Doll  would  be  given  a  day's 


92       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

holiday.  Her  sawdust  interior  somehow  seemed 
such  an  evident  thing.  She  would  be  left  in  her 
chair  to  stare,  Avhile  her  proprietor  hovered  about 
the  Roberts  house,  and  walked  with  friends  past 
it,  looking  up  at  the  windows,  and  discussing, 
with  bated  breath,  as  to  whether  the  new  baby 
was  a  girl  or  a  boy.  I  think  she  had  a  predilec- 
tion for  girls,  feeling  somehow  that  they  tended 
to  long  clothes  for  the  greater  length  of  time. 

Then  some  day,  having  had  her  hair  neatly 
curled,  and  a  clean  tucker  put  in  her  frock,  she 
would  repair  to  the  Roberts  establishment,  stand 
on  her  tiptoes,  cautiously  ring  the  bell,  and  await 
with  beating  heart  the  arrival  of  the  housemaid, 
to  whom  she  would  say,  with  the  utmost  polite- 
ness of  which  she  was  capable : 

"  If  you  please,  Mamma's  compliments,  and 
how  is  Mrs.  Roberts — And  if  she  is  as  well  as  can 
be  expected,  do  you  think  I  might  see  the  new 
baby  ?  " 

And  then,  if  fortune  favored  her,  which  it  usu- 
ally did,  she  would  be  led  up  the  staircase  and 
into  a  shaded  room,  which  seemed  pervaded  by  a 
solemn  but  beautiful  stillness  which  made  her  feel 
as  if  she  wanted  to  be  a  good  little  girl  always. 
And  Mrs.  Roberts,  who  perhaps  was  not  really  a 
specially  handsome  person  at  all,  but  who  looked 
somehow  rather  angelic,  would  hold  out  her  hand 
and  say  gently : 


A    Confidence  Betrayed  93 

"How  do  you  do,  my  dear?  Have  you  come 
to  see  the  new  baby  ?  ' 

And  she  would  answer  in  a  voice  full  of  respect- 
ful emotion : 

"  Yes,  if  you  please,  Mrs.  Roberts.  Mamma 
said  I  might  ask  you  if  I  could  see  it — if  you  are 
as  well  as  can  be  expected — and  I  may  only  stay  a 
few  minutes  for  fear  I  should  bother  you." 

"  Give  my  regards  to  your  mamma,  love,  and 
say  I  am  getting  on  very  nicely,  and  the  baby  is 
a  little  boy.  Nurse  will  let  you  look  at  him." 

Oh,  to  stand  beside  that  lovely  bundle  and  look 
down  at  it  reverently,  as  it  lay  upon  the  nurse's 
knee !  Reverence  and  adoration  mingled  with 
awe  were  the  pervading  emotions  in  her  small 
mind.  Reverence  for  Mrs.  Roberts  and  awe  of  a 
stately  mystery  in  the  shaded  room,  which  made 
it  feel  rather  like  a  church,  reverence  for  the 
nurse  who  knew  all  about  new  babies,  reverence 
for  the  new  baby,  whose  newness  made  him  seem 
such  a  potentate,  and  adoration — pure,  deep  adora- 
tion of  him  as  a  Baby. 

As  years  before  she  had  known  thoughts  which 
even  her  mind  could  not  have  known  words  to 
frame,  so  in  these  days  I  well  remember  that  she 
felt  emotions  her  child-thoughts  could  give  no 
shape  to,  and  which  were  still  feelings  which 
deeply  moved  her.  She  was  only  a  child,  who 
had  been  kept  a  child  by  those  who  loved  her, 


94       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

who  had  been  treated  always  as  a  child,  and 
who  was  not  in  any  sense  old  beyond  her  brief 
years.  And  yet  my  memory  brings  clearly  to  me 
that  by  the  atmosphere  of  these  shaded  rooms  she 
was  moved  and  awed  as  she  was  later  by  the  at- 
mosphere of  other  rooms  shaded  by  blinds  drawn 
down — and  by  the  mystery  of  another  stillness- 
a  more  awful  stillness — a  colder  one,  in  which  peo- 
ple always  stood  weeping  as  they  looked  down 
at  Something  which  \vas  not  a  life  beginning,  but 
a  life's  end. 

She  was  too  much  a  little  girl  to  know  then  that 
before  the  shaded  stillness  of  both  chambers  the 
human  nature  of  her  stood  hushed  and  reverent, 
confronting  Mystery,  and  the  Unanswered  Ques- 
tion before  which  ages  have  stood  hushed  just 
as  she  did,  just  as  she  did  though  she  was  only 
seven  years  old.  She  knew  no  less  than  all  the 
world. 

If  the  nurse  was  a  kind  one  she  was  allowed  to 
look  at  the  baby's  feet,  and  perhaps  to  kiss  them. 
Such  tiny  feet,  so  pink  and  tender,  and  so  given 
to  curling  up  and  squirming  ! 

"  Aren't  they  weenty,"  she  would  say,  clasping 
her  hands,  "  and  isn't  he  beautiful !  Oh,  /  wish  he 
was  mine ! ' 

The  unbiassed  opinion  of  maturer  years  leads 
me  to  a  tardy  conviction  that  the  new  babies  were 
not  beautiful,  that  they  were  painfully  creased  and 


A    Confidence  Betrayed  95 

grievously  red,  and  had  frequently  a  weird  air  of 
eld  combined  with  annoyance ;  that  they  had  no 
hair  and  no  noses,  and  no  individuality  except  to 
the  Mrs.  Roberts  of  the  occasion,  who  saw  in  them 
the  gifts  and  graces  of  the  gods.  (This  being  the 
lovely  boon  of  Nature,  whom  all  women  of  earth 
may  kneel  and  bless  that  she,  in  some  strange, 
gentle  moment,  has  given  them  this  thing.) 

But  it  was  the  serious  belief  of  the  Small  Per- 
son that,  a  new  baby  was  always  Beautiful,  and 
she  could  not  possibly  have  understood  the  creat- 
ure who  insinuated,  even  with  the  most  cautious 
and  diplomatic  mildness,  that  it  was  not.  No, 
that  would  have  been  striking  at  the  foundations 
of  the  universe. 

And  there  were  Nurses  who  let  her  hold  the 
new  baby.  She  was  so  careful  and  so  full  of  ten- 
der respect  that  I  think  anyone  might  have  trusted 
her — even  with  twins.  When  she  sat  on  a  low 
chair  and  held  the  white  draperied,  faintly  mov- 
ing bundle  which  was  a  new-born  human  thing, 
she  was  an  unformed,  yearning  Mother-creature, 
her  little  breast  as  warm  with  brooding  instincts 
as  a  small  bird-mother  covering  her  first  nest. 

o 

She  did  not  know  this — she  was  too  young — but 
it  was  true. 

i 

She  was  walking  slowly  round  the  Square  one 
lovely  summer  evening,  just  after  tea  (Nursery 
breakfasts  were  at  eight,  dinners  at  one,  tea  at 


96       The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

six),  and  she  had  as  her  companion  the  little  girl 
who  was  known  as  her  "  Best  Friend."  One  had 
a  best  Doll,  a  best  frock,  and  a  best  friend.  Her 
best  friend  was  a  very  sensitive,  shy  little  girl 
with  lovely  brown  velvet  eyes.  Her  name  was 
Annie,  and  their  souls  were  one. 

As  they  walked  they  saw  at  length  a  respect- 
able elderly  person  dressed  in  black,  and  carrying 
something  in  her  arms.  It  was  something  white 
and  with  long  drapery  depending  from  it.  She 
was  walking  slowly  up  and  down  as  if  taking  the 
air. 

"  There  is  a  lady  with  a  baby,"  exclaimed  the 
Small  Person.  "  And  it  looks  like  a  new  one." 

4i  It  is  a  new  one,"  said  Annie.  "  She  isn't  a 
Square  lady,  I  wonder  who  she  is." 

It  was  not  easy  to  tell.  She  was  no  one  they 
knew,  and  yet  there  she  was  walking  quietly  up 
and  down,  giving  a  promenade  to  a  new  baby. 

There  was  no  doubt  about  the  matter,  she  must 
be  approached.  They  eyed  her  wistfully  askance, 
and  then  looked  at  each  other  with  the  same 
thought  in  their  eyes. 

"  Would  she  think  we  were  rude  if  we  spoke  to 
her?'  suggested  the  Small  Person,  almost  in  a 
whisper. 

"  Oh,  we  don't  know  her,"  said  the  little  Best 
Friend.  "  She  might  think  it  very  rude." 

"  Do  you  think  she   would  ? '    said   the    Small 


A    Confidence  Betrayed  97 

Person.     "  She  looks  kind,"  examining  her  with 
anxiety. 

"  Let  us  walk  past  her,"  said  the  Best  Friend. 
So  they  walked  past  her  slowly,  respectfully  re- 
garding the  new  baby.  The  elderly  lady  who 
carried  it  did  not  look  vicious — in  fact,  she  looked 
amiable,  and  after  they  had  walked  past  her  twice 
she  began  to  smile  at  them.  This  was  so  encour- 
aging that  they  slackened  their  pace  and  the  Best 
Friend  gave  the  companion  of  her  soul  a  little 
"  nudge  "  with  her  elbow. 

"  Let's  ask  her,"  she  said.     "  You  do  it." 

"  No,  you." 

"I  daren't." 

"  I  daren't,  either." 

"  Oh,  do.     It's  a  perfectly  new  one." 

"  Oh,  you  do  it.     See,  how  nice  she  looks." 

They  were  quite  near  her,  and  just  at  that  junc- 
ture she  smiled  again  so  encouragingly  that  the 
Small  Person  stopped  before  her. 

"If  you  please,"  she  said,  "isn't  that  a  new 
baby  ?  " 

She  felt  herself  quite  red  in  the  face  at  her 
temerity,  and  there  was  no  doubt  an  honest  im- 
ploring in  her  eyes,  for  the  lady  smiled  again. 

"  Yes,"  she  answered.  "  Do  you  want  to  look 
at  it?" 

"  Oh,  yes,  please,"  they  both  chimed  at  once. 
"  We  do  so  love  them." 
7 


98       The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 


The  baby's  face  was  covered  with  a  white  lace 
veil.  The  lady  bent  toward  them,  and  lifting  it, 
revealed  the  charms  beneath. 

"  There,"  she  said. 

And  they  gasped  with  joy  and  cried  together: 


&2 


mm 

IliM  .!:-/jinf 

/(/.  -. 


'*4# 


liiMfm 

: W   \  '"- '' ''•  ^   '  '  /  i'f'      '  ' '   V'T -  Ifev 


^ 


-/i         ^^      '    '          -,:— 

/   /  /     .: 


"  Oh,  isn't  it  a  beautiful  one  ! '  though  it  was 
exactly  like  all  the  others,  having  neither  hair, 
features,  nor  complexion. 

"  Is  it  a  very  new  one  ? '  they  asked.  "  How 
new?'  And  their  hearts  were  rejoiced  with  the 
information  that  it  was  as  new  as  could  possibly 


A    Confidence  Betrayed  99 

be  compatible  with  its  being  allowed  to  breathe 
the  air  of  Heaven. 

In  reflecting  upon  the  conduct  of  this  elderly 
person — who  was  probably  a  sort  of  superior 
monthly  nurse — I  have  always  felt  obliged  to 
class  her  with  the  jocular  Park  policeman  who, 
in  the  buoyancy  of  his  spirits,  caused  the  blood  of 
the  Small  Person  to  congeal  in  her  infancy  by  the 
sprightly  information  that  she  would  be  taken  to 
prison  if  she  fell  on  the  grass  through  the  back  of 
the  seat. 

This  lady  also  regarded  the  innocence  of  tender 
years  as  an  amusing  thing.  Though  how — with 
the  adoring  velvet  eyes  of  the  Best  Friend  fixed 
trustingly  on  her,  and  with  the  round  face  of  the 
Small  Person  burning  with  excited  delight  as  she 
talked — it  was  quite  possible  for  her  to  play  her 
comedy  with  entire  composure,  I  do  not  find  it 
easy  to  explain. 

"  Are  you  so  very  fond  of  babies  ?  "  she  inquired. 

"  We  love  them  better  than  anything  in  the 
world." 

"  Better  than  dolls?" 

"  Oh,  thousands  better ! '  exclaimed  the  Small 
Person. 

"  But  dolls  don't  cry,"  said  the  stranger. 

"  If  I  had  a  baby,"  the  Small  Person  protested, 
"  it  wouldn't  cry,  because  I  should  take  such  care 
of  it." 


ioo     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

"  Would  you  like  a  baby  of  your  own  ? ' 

1  feel  sure  the  round  face  must  have  become 
scarlet. 

"  I  would  give   worlds  and  worlds  for   one  ! ' 
with  a  lavishness  quite  unbiassed  by  the  limits  of 
possession. 

The  stranger  was  allowing  the  friends  to  walk 
slowly  by  her,  one  on  either  side.  In  this  way 
there  seemed  to  be  established  some  relationship 
with  the  baby. 

"  Would  you  like  me  to  give  you  this  one  ? ' 
she  asked,  quite  seriously. 

"  Give  it  to  me  ?  "  breathless.    "  Oh,  you  conldnt" 

"  I  think  I  could,  if  you  would  be  sure  to  take 
care  of  it." 

"  Oh,  oh  ! '  with  rapturous  incredulity.  "  But 
its  mamma  wouldn't  let  you  ! ' 

"  Yes,  I  think  she  would,"  said  the  lady,  Avith 
reflective  composure.  "  You  see,  she  has  enough 
of  them!" 

The  Small  Person  gasped !  Enough  of  new  ba- 
bies? There  was  a  riotous  splendor  in  such  a 
suggestion  which  seemed  incredible.  She  could 
not  help  being  guilty  of  the  rudeness  of  regarding 
the  strange  lady,  in  private,  with  doubt.  She  was 
capable  of  believing  almost  anything  else  -  -  but 
not  that. 

"  Ah ! '  she  sighed,  "  you — you're  making  fun 
of  me." 


A    Confidence  Betrayed  101 

"  No,"  replied  this  unprincipled  elderly  person, 
"  I  am  not  at  all.  They  are  very  tiresome  when 
there  are  a  great  many  of  them."  She  spoke  as 
if  they  were  fleas.  "  What  would  you  do  with 
this  one  if  I  gave  it  to  you  ?  ' 

At  this  thrilling  suggestion  the  Small  Person 
quite  lost  her  head. 

"  I  would  wash  it  every  morning,"  she  said,  her 
words  tumbling  over  each  other  in  her  desire  to 
prove  her  fitness  for  the  boon.  "  I  would  wash  it 
in  warm  water  in  a  little  bath  and  with  a  big  soft 
sponge  and  Windsor  soap — and  I  would  puff  it 
all  over  with  powder — and  dress  it  and  undress 
it — and  put  it  to  sleep  and  walk  it  about  the  room 
— and  trot  it  on  my  knees — and  give  it  milk." 

"  It  takes  a  great  deal  of  milk,"  said  the  wicked 
elderly  person,  who  was  revelling  in  an  orgy  of 
jocular  crime. 

"  I  would  ask  Mamma  to  let  me  take  it  from 
the  milkman.  I'm  sure  she  would,  I  would  give 
it  as  much  as  it  wanted,  and  it  would  sleep  with 
me,  and  I  would"  buy  it  a  rattle,  and- 

"  I  see  you  know  how  to  take  care  of  it,"  said 
the  respectable  criminal.  "  You  shall  have  it." 

"  But  how  can  its  Mamma  spare  it  ?  "  asked  the 
small  victim,  fearfully.  "  Are  you  sure  she  could 
spare  it  ?" 

"  Oh,  yes,  she  can  spare  it.  Of  course  I  must 
take  it  back  to  her  to-night  and  tell  her  you  want 


IO2     The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

it,  and  I  have  promised  it  to  you  ;  but  to-morrow 
evening  you  can  have  it." 

Since  the  dawning  of  the  Children's  Century 
young  things  have  become  much  better  able  to 
defend  themselves,  in  the  sense  of  being  less 
easily  imposed  on.  I  believe  that  only  an  Eng- 
lish child,  and  a  child  brought  up  in  the  English 
nursery  of  that  period,  could  have  been  sufficient- 
ly unsophisticated  to  believe  this  Machiavellian 
Monthly  Nurse.  In  that  day  one's  private  rev- 
erence for  and  confidence  in  the  grown-up  per- 
son were  things  which  dominated  existence.  A 
grown-up  person  represented  such  knowledge 
and  dignity  and  power.  People  who  could  crush 
you  to  the  earth  by  telling  you  that  you  were 
"a  rude  little  girl,"  or  "an  impertinent  child," 
and  who  could  send  you  to  bed,  or  give  you  ex- 
tra lessons,  or  deprive  you  of  your  pudding  at 
dinner,  wore  an  air  of  omnipotence.  To  suggest 
that  a  grown-up  person — "  a  grown-up  lady  '  or 
gentleman — could  "  tell  a  story,"  would  have  been 
sheer  iconoclasm.  And  to  doubt  the  veracity  of 
a  respectable  elderly  person  entrusted  with  a  new 
baby  would  have  been  worse  than  sacrilegious. 
The  two  friends  did  not  leave  her  side  until  she 
left  the  Square  to  take  the  baby  home,  and  when 
she  went,  all  details  had  been  arranged  between 
them,  and  Heaven  itself  seemed  to  have  opened. 

The  next  evening,  at  precisely  a  quarter-past 


A    Confidence  Betrayed  103 

seven,  the  two  were  to  go  to  the  corner  of  a  cer- 
tain street,  and  there  they  would  find  the  elderly 
person  with  the  new  baby  and  a  bundle  of  its 
clothes,  which  were  to  be  handed  over  with  cere- 
mony to  the  new  proprietor. 

It  was  to  the  Small  Person  the  baby  was  to  be 
given,  though  in  the  glow  of  generous  joy  and 
affection  it  was  an  understood  thing  between 
them  that  the  Best  Friend  was  to  be  a  partner 
in  the  blissful  enterprise. 

How  did  they  live  through  the  next  day  ?  How 
did  they  learn  their  lessons  ?  How  could  they 
pin  themselves  down  to  geography  and  grammar 
and  the  multiplication  table?  The  Small  Per- 
son's brain  reeled,  and  new  babies  swam  before 
her  eyes.  She  felt  as  if  the  wooden  form  she  sat 
on  were  a  species  of  throne. 

Momentarily  she  had  been  brought  down  to 
earth  by  the  fact  that,  when  she  had  gone  to  her 
Mamma,  glowing  and  exalted  from  the  interview 
with  the  elderly  person,  she  had  found  herself 
confronting  doubt  as  to  the  seriousness  of  that 
lady's  intentions. 

"  My  dear  child,"  said  her  Mamma,  smiling  at 
her  radiant  little  countenance,  "  she  did  not  mean 
it!  she  was  only  joking!' 

"Oh,  no!'  the  Small  Person  insisted.  "She 
was  quite  in  earnest,  Mamma !  She  really  was. 
She  did  not  laugh  the  least  bit.  And  she  was  such 


IO4     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

a  nice  lady — °nd  the  baby  was  such  a  beautiful  little 
new  one !  I  asked  her  if  she  was  laughing  at  me, 
and  she  said,  '  No,'  she  was  not.  And  I  asked  her 
if  the  baby's  Mamma  could  spare  it,  and  she  said 
she  thought  she  could,  because  she  had  enough  of 
them.  She  was  such  a  kind  lady." 

Somehow  she  felt  that  her  Mamma  and  the 
governess  were  not  convinced,  but  she  was  too 
much  excited  and  there  was  too  much  exaltation 
in  her  mood  to  allow  of  her  being  really  discour- 
aged, at  least  until  after  the  fateful  hour  of  ap- 
pointment. Before  that  hour  arrived  she  and  her 
friend  were  at  the  corner  of  the  street  which  had 
been  named. 

"It's  rather  a  common  street,  isn't  it?"  the  two 
said  to  each  other.  "  It  was  funny  that  she 
should  tell  us  to  come  to  a  back  street.  That 
baby  could  not  live  here,  of  course,  and  neither 
could  she.  I  wonder  why  she  didn't  bring  it  back 
into  the  Square  ?  ' 

It  was  decidedly  a  back  street — being  a  sort  of 
continuation  of  the  one  whose  row  of  cottages  the 
Small  Person  could  see  from  the  Nursery  win- 
dow. It  was  out  of  the  question  that  the  baby 
could  belong  to  such  a  neighborhood.  The  houses 
were  factory  people's  cottages-  -the  kind  of 
houses  where  domestic  differences  were  settled 
with  the  fire-irons. 

The  two  children  walked  up  and  down,  talking 


A    Confidence  Betrayed  105 

in  excited  under-tones.  Perhaps  she  had  men- 
tioned this  street  because  it  was  near  the  Square  ; 
perhaps  she  lived  on  the  Crescent,  which  was  not 
far  off ;  perhaps  she  was  afraid  it  would  be  trou- 
blesome to  carry  the  baby  and  the  bundle  at  the 
same  time,  and  this  corner  was  nearer  than  the 
Square  itself. 

They  walked  up  and  down  in  earnest  faith. 
Nothing  would  have  induced  them  to  lose  sight 
of  the  corner  for  a  second.  They  confined  them- 
selves and  their  promenade  to  a  distance  of  about 
ten  yards.  They  went  backward  and  forward  like 
squirrels  in  a  cage. 

Every  ten  minutes  they  consulted  together  as 
to  who  could  pluck  up  the  courage  to  ask  some 
passer-by  the  time.  The  passers-by  were  all  back 
street  people.  Sometimes  they  did  not  know  the 
time,  but  at  last  the  children  found  out  that  the 
quarter-past  seven  was  passed. 

"  Perhaps  the  baby  was  -asleep,"  said  one  of 
them.  "  And  she  had  to  wait  until  it  wrakened 
up  before  she  could  put  on  its  bonnet  and 
cloak." 

So  they  walked  up  and  down  again. 

"  Mamma  said  she  wasn't  in  earnest,"  said  the 
Small  Person  ;  "  but  she  was,  wasn't  she,  Annie?  ' 

"  Oh  !  yes,"  said  Annie.  "  She  didn't  laugh  the 
least  bit  when  she  talked." 

"  The  house  at  the  corner  is  a  little  nicer  than 


io6     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

the  others,"  the  Small  Person  suggested.  "  Per- 
haps it  is  very  nice  inside.  Do  you  think  she 
might  live  there  ?  If  she  did  we  could  knock  at 
the  door  and  tell  her  we  are  here." 

But  the  house  was  really  not  possible.  She 
must  live  somewhere  else — with  that  baby. 

It  seemed  as  if  they  had  walked  for  hours,  and 
talked  for  months,  and  reasoned  for  years,  when 
they  were  startled  by  the  booming,  regular  sound 
of  a  church  clock. 

"  That's  St.  Philip's  bell,"  exclaimed  the  Small 
Person.  "  What  is  it  striking  ? ' 

They  stood  still  and  counted. 

"  One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight." 

The  two  friends  looked  at  each  other  blankly. 

"  Do  you  think,"  they  exclaimed  simultaneous- 
ly, "  she  isn't  coming?' 

"  But — but  she  said  she  would,"  said  the  Small 
Person,  with  desperate  hopefulness.  "  If  she 
didn't  come  it  would  be  a  story  !  ' 

"  Yes,"  said  the  Best  Friend,  "  she  would  have 
told  a  story  !  ' 

This  seemed  an  infamy  impossible  and  disre- 
spectful to  contemplate.  It  was  so  impossible  that 
they  braced  themselves  and  began  to  walk  up  and 
down  again.  Perhaps  they  had  made  some  mis- 
take- -there  had  been  some  misunderstanding 
about  the  time — the  corner — the  street — anything 
but  the  honorable  intentions  of  the  elderly  person. 


A    Confidence  Betrayed  107 

They  tried  to  comfort  each  other — to  be  sus- 
tained. They  talked,  they  walked,  they  watched 
-until  St.  Philip's  clock  boomed  half-past  eight. 
Their  bedtime  was  really  eight  o'clock.  They 
had  stayed  out  half  an  hour  beyond  it.  They 
dare  stay  no  longer.  They  stopped  their  \valk 
on  the  fated  corner  itself  and  looked  into  each 
other's  eyes. 

"  She  Jiasrit  come ! '  they  said,  unconscious  of 
the  obviousness  of  the  remark. 

"  She  said  she  would,"  repeated  the  Small  Per- 
son. 

"  It  must  be  the  wrong  corner,"  said  the  Best 
Friend. 

"  It  must  be,"  replied  the  Small  Person,  deso- 
lately. "  Or  the  baby's  mamma  couldn't  spare 
it.  It  was  such  a  beautiful  baby — perhaps  she 
could  not !  ' 

"  And  the  lady  did  not  like  to  come  and  tell  us," 
said  the  Best  Friend.  "  Perhaps  we  shall  see  her 
in  the  Square  again  some  time." 

"  Perhaps  we  shall,"  said  the  Small  Person, 
dolefully.  "  It's  too  late  to  stay  out  any  longer. 
Let  us  go  home." 

They  went  home  sadder  but  not  much  wiser 
little  girls.  They  did  not  realize  that  the  respect- 
able elderly  person  had  had  a  delightful,  relatable 
joke  at  the  expense  of  their  innocent  little  mater- 
nal souls. 


io8     The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

Evening  after  evening  they  walked  the  Square 
together,  watching.  But  they  never  saw  the  new 
baby  again,  or  the  sardonic  elderly  female  who 
carried  it. 

It  is  only  a  thing  not  far  away  from  Paradise- 
not  yet  acclimatized  to  earth — who  can  so  trust- 
ingly believe  and  be  so  far  befooled. 


CHAPTER   VII. 

The  Secretaire 

I  WONDER  why  it  was  called  the  Secretaire? 
Perhaps  it  had  resources  the  Small  Person  never 
knew  of.  It  looked  like  a  large  old-fashioned  ma- 
hogany book-case,  with  a  big  drawer  which  formed 
a  ledge,  and  with  a  cupboard  below.  Until  she 
was  seven  or  eight  years  old  she  did  not  "  dis- 
cover" the  Secretaire.  She  knew  that  it  existed, 
of  course,  but  she  did  not  know  what  its  values 
were.  She  used  to  look  at  its  rows  and  rows  of 
books  and  sigh,  because  she  knew  they  were 
"grown-up  books"  and  she  thought  there  was 
nothing  in  them  which  could  interest  her. 

They  were  such  substantially  bound  and  serious- 
looking  books.  No  one  could  have  suspected 
them  of  containing  stories — at  least,  no  inexperi- 
enced inspector.  There  were  rows  of  volumes 
called  "  The  Encyclopaedia,"  rows  of  stout  vol- 
umes of  Blackwood's  Magazine,  a  row  of  poets,  a 
row  of  miscellaneous  things  with  unprepossess- 
ing bindings,  and  two  rows  of  exceedingly  ugly 
brown  books,  which  might  easily  have  been  sus- 
pected of  being  arithmetics,  only  that  it  was  of 


no     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

course  incredible  that  any  human  creature,  how- 
ever lost,  could  have  been  guilty  of  the  unseemly 
brutality  of  buying  arithmetics  by  the  dozen. 

The  Small  Person  used  to  look  at  them  some- 
times with  hopeless,  hungry  eyes.  It  seemed  so 
horribly  wicked  that  there  should  be  shelves  of 
books — shelves  full  of  them — which  offered  noth- 
ing to  a  starving  creature.  She  was  a  starving 
creature  in  those  days,  with  a  positively  wolfish 
appetite  for  books,  though  no  one  knew  about  it 
or  understood  the  anguish  of  its  gnawings.  It 
must  be  plainly  stated  that  her  longings  were 
not  for  " improving'  books.  The  cultivation  she 
gained  in  those  days  was  gained  quite  uncon- 
sciously, through  the  workings  of  a  sort  of  rabies 
with  which  she  had  been  infected  from  birth.  At 
three  years  old  she  had  begun  a  life-long  chase 
after  the  Story.  She  may  have  begun  it  earlier, 
but  my  clear  recollections  seem  to  date  from 
Herod,  the  King,  to  whom  her  third  year  intro- 
duced her  through  the  medium  of  the  speckled 
Testament. 

In  those  days,  I  think,  the  Children's  Century 
had  not  begun.  Children  were  not  regarded  as 
embryo  intellects,  whose  growth  it  is  the  pleasure 
and  duty  of  intelligent  maturity  to  foster  and  pro- 
tect. Morals  and  manners  were  attended  to,  des- 
perate efforts  were  made  to  conquer  their  natural 
disinclination  to  wash  their  hands  and  faces,  it 


The  Secretaire  1 1 1 

was  a  time-honored  custom  to  tell  them  to  "make 
less  noise,"  and  I  think  everybody  knelt  down  in 
his  night-gown  and  said  his  prayers  every  night 
and  morning.  I  wish  I  knew  who  was  the  origin- 
ator of  the  nursery  verse  which  was  a  kind  of 
creed  : 

"  Speak  when  you're  spoken  to, 

Come  when  you're  called, 
Shut  the  door  after  you, 
And  do  as  you're  told. 

The  rhyme  and  metre  were,  perhaps,  not  fault- 
less, but  the  sentiments  were  without  a  flaw. 

A  perfectly  normal  child  knew  what  happened 
in  its  own  nursery  and  the  nurseries  of  its  cousins 
and  juvenile  friends;  it  knew  something  of  the 
romances  of  Mrs.  Barbauld  and  Miss  Edgeworth, 
and  the  adventures  related  in  Peter  Parley's 
"  Annual."  Religious  aunts  possibly  gave  it  hor- 
rible little  books  containing  memoirs  of  dreadful 
children  who  died  early  of  complicated  diseases, 
whose  lingering  developments  they  enlivened  by 
giving  unlimited  moral  advice  and  instruction  to 
their  parents  and  immediate  relatives,  seeming, 
figuratively  speaking,  to  implore  them  to  "  go 
and  do  likewise,"  and  perishing  to  appropriate 
texts.  The  Small  Person  suffered  keen  private 
pangs  of  conscience,  and  thought  she  was  a  wicked 
child,  because  she  did  not  like  those  books  and 


H2     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

had  a  vague  feeling  of  disbelief  in  the  children. 
It  seemed  probable  that  she  might  be  sent  to  per- 
dition and  devoured  by  fire  and  brimstone  because 
of  this  irreligious  indifference,  but  she  could  not 
overcome  it.  But  I  am  afraid  the  Small  Person 
was  not  a  normal  child.  Still  she  really  could  not 
help  it,  and  she  has  been  sufficiently  punished, 
poor  thing,  even  while  she  has  been  unduly  re- 
warded. She  happened  to  be  born,  as  a  clever 
but  revoltingly  candid  and  practical  medical  man 
once  told  her,  with  a  cerebral  tumor  of  the  Ima- 
gination. 

Little  girls  did  not  revel  in  sumptuous  libraries 
then.  Books  were  birthday  or  Christmas  pres- 
ents, and  were  read  and  re-read,  and  lent  to  other 
little  girls  as  a  great  favor. 

The  Small  Person's  chase  after  the  Story  was 
thought  to  assume  the  proportions  of  a  crime. 

"  Have  you  any  books  you  could  lend  me?"  she 
always  ended  by  asking  a  new  acquaintance. 

"  That  child  has  a  book  again  !  "  she  used  to  hear 
annoyed  voices  exclaim,  when  being  sent  up  or 
down  stairs,  on  some  errand,  she  found  something 
to  read  on  the  way,  and  fell  through  the  tempter. 
It  was  so  positively  unavoidable  and  inevitable 
that  one  should  forget,  and  sink  down  on  the 
stairs  somewhere  to  tear  the  contents  out  of  the 
heart  of  a  few  pages,  and  it  was  so  horrible,  and 
made  one's  heart  leap  and  thump  so  guiltily,  when 


The  Secretaire  113 

one  heard  the  voice,  and  realized  how  bad,  and 
idle,  and  thoughtless,  and  disobedient  one  was. 

It  was  like  being  conquered  by  a  craving  for 
drink  or  opium.  It  was  being  a  story-maniac. 

It  made  her  rude,  too,  and  it  was  an  awful  thing 
to  be  rude !  She  was  a  well-mannered  enough 
child,  but  when  she  went  to  play  with  a  friend 
in  a  strange  nursery,  or  sitting-room,  how  was  it 
possible  to  resist  just  looking  at  a  book  lying  on  a 
table  ?  Figure  to  yourself  a  beautiful,  violently 
crimson,  or  purple,  or  green  book,  ornamented 
with  gorgeous,  flaring  designs  in  gilt,  and  with  a 
seductive  title  in  gilt  letters  on  the  back,  and  ima- 
gine how  it  could  be  possible  that  it  should  not 
fill  one's  veins  with  fever. 

If  people  had  just  understood  and  had  allowed 
her  to  take  such  books  and  gallop  through  them 
without  restraint.  (She  always  galloped  through 
her  books,  she  could  not  read  them  with  reason- 
able calmness.)  But  it  was  rude  to  want  to  read 
when  people  wanted  to  talk  or  play  with  you,  and 
so  one  could  only  breathlessly  lift  the  corner  of  a 
leaf  and  devour  half  a  dozen  words  during  some 
momentary  relief  from  the  other  person's  eye. 
And  it  was  torment.  And  notwithstanding  her 
sufferings,  she  knew  that  it  was  her  fate  to  be  fre- 
quently discussed  among  her  friends  as  a  little 
girl  who  was  rude  enough  "  to  read  when  she 

comes  to  see  you." 
8 


U4    1  he   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

As  she  did  not  develop  with  years  into  an  en- 
tirely unintelligent  or  unthinking  person,  there 
may  lie  a  shade  of  encouragement  to  anxious 
parents  in  the  fact  that  she  was  not  conscious  of 
any  thirst  for  "  improving  "  reading.  She  wanted 
stories — any  kind  of  stories — every  kind — any- 
thing from  a  romance  to  a  newspaper  anecdote. 
She  was  a  simple,  omnivorous  creature.  She  had 
no  precocious  views  about  her  mind  or  her  intel- 
lectual condition.  She  reflected  no  more  on  her 
mind  than  she  did  on  her  plump  legs  and  arms— 
not  so  much,  because  they  were  frequently  made 
red  and  smarting  by  the  English  east  winds — and 
it  did  not  occur  to  her  that  she  had  an  intellectual 
condition.  She  went  to  school  because  all  little 
girls  did,  and  she  learned  her  lessons  because  only 
in  that  manner  could  she  obtain  release  at  twelve 
in  the  morning  and  four  in  the  afternoon.  She 
seemed  always  to  know  how  to  read,  and  spell- 
ing had  no  difficulties  for  her ;  she  rather  liked  ge- 
ography, she  thought  grammar  dull,  and  she  ab- 
horred arithmetic.  Roman  and  Grecian  and 
English  history,  up  to  the  times  of  the  Georges, 
she  was  very  fond  of.  They  were  the  Story  she 
was  in  chase  of.  Gods  and  goddesses,  legends 
and  wars,  Druids  and  ancient  Britons,  painted 
blue,  worshipping  in  their  groves,  and  fighting 
with  their  clubs  and  spears  against  the  splendid 
Romans  in  their  chariots  —  these  fed  the  wolf 


The  Secretaire  115 

which  gnawed  her  innocent  vitals.  The  poor, 
half-savage  Briton,  walking  in  wonder  through 
the  marvellous  city  of  his  captors,  and  saying 
mournfully,  "  How  could  you  who  have  all  this 
splendor  wish  to  conquer  and  take  from  me  such 
a  poor  country  as  mine'  -this  touched  her  heart. 
Boadicea  the  Queen  was  somehow  a  wild,  beauti- 
ful, majestic  figure — Canute  upon  the  sea-shore, 
commanding  the  sea  to  recede,  provided  the 
drama — and  Alfred,  wandering  in  the  forest,  and 
burning  the  cakes  in  the  neat-herd's  hut,  was 
comedy  and  tragedy  at  once,  as  his  kinghood 
stood  rebuked  before  the  scolding  woman,  ignor- 
ant of  his  power.  Henry  the  Eighth,  Elizabeth 
and  Bloody  Mary,  Richard  Cceur  de  Lion,  Rich- 
ard the  Third,  and  the  poor  little  Princes  in  the 
Tower — one  could  read  their  stories  again  and 
again ;  but  where  the  Georges  began  romance 
seemed  to  fade  away,  and  the  Small  Person  was 
guilty  of  the  base  treason  of  being  very  slight- 
ly interested  in  the  reign  of  Her  Most  Gracious 
Majesty  the  Queen. 

"  1  don't  care  about  the  coal  and  cotton  reigns," 
she  said.  "  They  are  not  interesting.  Nothing 
happens."  Lempriere's  "  Classical  Dictionary  ' 
w^as  a  treasure  to  be  clutched  at  any  moment — to 
keep  in  a  convenient  corner  of  the  desk,  so  that, 
when  one  put  one's  head  under  the  lid  to  look  for 
pens  or  pencils,  one  could  snatch  just  one  scrap 


n6     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

of  a  legend  about  a  god  or  a  goddess  changed 
into  something  as  a  punishment  or  to  escape 
somebody  or  other. 

Remembering  these  ill-satisfied  hungers,  her 
own  childhood  being  a  thing  of  the  past,  and  the 
childhood  of  young  things  of  her  own  waiting  for 
its  future,  she  gave  them  books  as  she  gave  them 
food,  and  found  it  worthy  of  note  that,  having 
literature  as  daily  bread  and  all  within  reach  be- 
fore them,  they  chose  the  "improving'  things  of 
their  own  free  will.  It  interested  her  to  ponder 
on  the  question  of  whether  it  was  because  they 
were  never  starving  and  ravenous,  or  that  instruc- 
tion of  to-day  is  made  interesting,  or  whether 
they  were  by  nature  more  intelligent  than  herself. 

It  was  an  indescribably  dreary  day  when  she 
discovered  the  gold  mine  in  the  Secretaire.  I 
have  a  theory  that  no  one  can  really  know  how 
dreary  a  rainy  day  can  be  until  they  have  spent 
one  in  an  English  manufacturing  town.  She  did 
not  live  at  Seedley  at  that  time,  and  as  in  her  rec- 
ollections of  the  Back  Garden  of  Eden  the  sun 
always  seemed  to  have  been  shining  on  roses  and 
apple-blossoms,  in  Islington  Square  it  seemed  al- 
ways to  be  raining  on  stone  pavements  and  slate 
roofs  shining  with  the  wet.  One  did  not  judge 
of  the  weather  by  looking  at  the  sky.  The  sky 
was  generally  gray  when  it  was  not  filled  with 
dirty  but  beautiful  woolly-white  clouds,  with 


The  Secretaire  117 

small  patches  of  deep  blue  between.  It  was  the 
custom  to  judge  what  was  happening  by  looking 
at  the  slates  on  the  roofs.  There  seemed  to  be 
such  lots  of  slates  to  look  out  at  when  one  went 
to  a  window. 

"  The  slates  are  quite  wet !  '  was  the  awful  sen- 
tence which  doomed  to  despair  many  a  plan  of 
pleasure.  They  were  always  wet  on  the  days 
when  one  was  to  be  taken  somewhere  to  do  some- 
thing interesting. 

Everything  was  wet  on  the  day  when  she  found 
the  gold  mine.  When  she  went  to  the  Nursery 
window  (the  Nursery  being  a  back  room  on  the 
third  story)  she  looked  down  on  the  flags  of  wet 
back  yards — her  own  back  yard  and  those  of  the 
neighbors.  Manchester  back  yards  are  never 
beautiful  or  enlivening,  but  when  the  flagstones 
are  dark  and  shining,  when  moisture  makes  din- 
gier the  always  dingy  whitewashed  walls,  and 
the  rain  splashes  on  their  coping,  they  wear  an 
aspect  to  discourage  the  soul.  The  back  yards 
of  the  houses  of  the  Square  were  divided  by  a 
long  flagged  passage  from  the  back  yards  of  the 
smaller  houses  in  what  wras  called  a  "  back  street." 
From  the  Nursery  one  looked  down  on  their  roofs 
and  chimneys,  and  was  provided  with  a  depressing 
area  of  wet  slates.  It  was  not  a  cheering  outlook. 

The  view  from  the  Sitting-room  was  no  more 
inspiring  and  was  more  limited.  It  was  on  the 


n8     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

ground  floor  and  at  the  back  also,  and  only  saw 
the  wet  flagstones.  She  tried  it  and  retired.  The 
Drawing-room  looked  out  on  a  large  square  ex- 
panse of  gravel  enclosed  by  houses  whose  smoke- 
grimed  faces  stared  at  one  with  blank,  wet  win- 
dow eyes  which  made  one  low-spirited  beyond 
compare.  She  tried  that  also,  and  breaking  down 
under  it,  crept  upstairs.  It  was  in  a  room  above 
the  Drawing-room  that  the  Secretaire  had  its 
place,  and  it  was  on  turning  in  despair  from  the 
window  there,  that  her  eye  fell  upon  its  rows  of 
uninviting-looking  books. 

Before  that  particular  window  there  was  a 
chair,  and  it  was  a  habit  of  hers  to  go  and  kneel 
by  it  with  her  elbows  on  its  seat  and  her  chin  on 
her  hands  while  she  looked  at  the  clouds. 

This  was  because  through  all  her  earlier  years 
she  had  a  queer  sense  of  nearness  to  the  sky 
and  of  companionship  with  the  clouds  when  she 
looked  up  at  them.  When  they  were  fleecy  and 
beautiful  and  floated  in  the  blue,  she  imagined 
them  part  of  a  wonderful  country,  and  fancied 
herself  running  and  climbing  over  them.  When 
there  was  only  a  dull  lead-colored  expanse,  she 
used  to  talk  to  it  in  a  whisper,  expostulating,  ar- 
guing, imploring.  And  this  she  did  that  day. 

"  Oh  !  "  she  whispered,  "  do  open  and  let  me  see 
some  blue,  please  do  !  If  you  please.  You  can  do 
it  if  you  like.  You  might  do  it !  I  would  do  it 


The  Secretaire  119 

for  you  if  I  was  a  sky.  Just  a  piece  of  blue  and 
some  sun — just  an  island  of  blue  !  Do!  Do!  Do!' 

But  it  would  not  and  did  not.  The  rain  came 
drizzling  down  and  the  slates  became  wetter  and 
wetter.  It  was  deadly — deadly  dull. 

The  Nursery  Sofa,  the  Green  Armchair,  the 
very  Doll  itself  seemed  to  have  the  life  taken  out 
of  them.  The  Doll  sat  in  her  chair  in  the  Nur- 
sery and  glared  in  a  glassy-eyed  way  into  space. 
She  was  nobody  at  all  but  a  Doll.  Mary  Queen 
of  Scots,  Evangeline,  and  the  Aztec  royalties 
seemed  myriads  of  miles  away  from  her.  They 
were  in  the  Fourth  Dimension  of  Space.  She 
was  stuffed  with  sawdust,  her  nose  was  a  blunt 
dab  of  wax,  her  arms  were  green  kid,  her  legs 
dangled,  her  toes  turned  in,  and  she  wore  an 
idiotic  wig.  How  could  a  Small  Person  "  pre- 
tend '  with  a  thing  like  that !  And  the  slates 
were  wet — wet — wet !  She  rose  from  her  kneel- 
ing posture  before  the  chair  and  wandered  across 
the  room  toward  the  Secretaire,  to  stare  up  at 
the  books. 

"  I  wish  I  had  something  to  read ! "  she  said, 
wofully.  "  I  wish  there  was  something  for  me  to 
read  in  the  Secretaire.  But  they  are  just  a  lot  of 
fat,  grown-up  books." 

The  bound  volumes  of  Blackwood's  Magazine 
always  seemed  specially  annoying  to  her,  because 
there  were  bits  of  red  in  the  binding  which  might 


I2O    The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

have  suggested  liveliness.  But  "  Blackwood's 
Magazine ! '  What  a  title !  Not  a  hope  of  a 
story  in  that.  At  that  period  cheerfulness  in 
binding  seemed  to  promise  something,  and  the 
title  did  the  rest. 

But  she  had  reached  the  climax  of  childish 
ennui.  Something  must  be  done  to  help  her  to 
endure  it. 

She  stared  for  a  few  moments,  and  then  went 
to  another  part  of  the  room  for  a  chair.  It  must 
have  been  heavy  for  her,  because  English  chairs 
of  mahogany  were  not  trifles.  She  dragged,  or 
pulled,  or  carried  it  over  to  the  Secretaire.  She 
climbed  on  it,  and  from  there  climbed  on  to  the 
ledge,  which  seemed  at  a  serious  distance  from 
the  floor.  Her  short  legs  hung  dangling  as  she 
sat,  and  she  was  very  conscious  that  she  should 
tumble  off  if  she  were  not  careful.  But  at  last 
she  managed  to  open  one  of  the  glass  doors,  and 
then,  with  the  aid  of  cautious  movement,  the 
other  one.  And  then  she  began  to  examine  the 
books.  There  were  a  few — just  a  few — with  lively 
bindings,  and  of  course  these  were  the  first  she 
took  down.  There  was  one  in  most  alluring  pale 
blue  and  gold.  It  was  called,  "  The  Keepsake," 
or  "  The  Garland,"  or  "  The  Floral  Tribute,"  or 
something  of  that  order.  When  she  opened  it 
she  found  it  contained  verses  and  pictures.  The 
verses  were  beautifully  printed  plaints  about 


The  Secretaire  121 

ladies'  eyes  and  people's  hearts.  There  were 
references  to  "  marble  brows,"  and  "  snowy  bos- 
oms," and  "  ruby  lips,"  but  somehow  these  charms 
seemed  to  ramble  aimlessly  through  the  lines, 
and  never  collect  themselves  together  and  form  a 
person  one  could  be  interested  or  see  a  story  in. 
The  Small  Person  feverishly  chased  the  Story 
through  pages  of  them,  but  she  never  came  within 
hailing  distance  of  it.  Even  the  pictures  did  not 
seem  real.  They  were  engravings  of  wonderful 
ladies  with  smooth  shoulders,  from  which  rather 
boisterous  zephyrs  seemed  to  be  snatching  airily 
flying  scarves.  They  all  had  large  eyes,  high  fore- 
heads, exceedingly  arched  eyebrows,  and  ring- 
lets, and  the  gentleman  who  wrote  the  verses 
about  them  mentioned  an  ardent  wish  to  "  touch 
his  lute  '  in  their  praise.  Their  Christian  names 
were  always  written  under  them,  and  nobody  ever 
was  guilty  of  anything  less  Byronic  than  Leonora, 
or  Zulieka,  or  Haidee,  or  lone,  or  Irene.  This 
seemed  quite  natural  to  the  Small  Person,  as  it 
would  really  have  been  impossible  to  imagine 
any  one  of  them  being  called  Jane,  or  Sarah,  or 
Mary  Anne.  They  did  not  look  like  it.  But, 
also,  they  did  not  look  like  a  story. 

The  Small  Person  simply  hated  them  as  she 
realized  what  fraudulent  pretences  they  were. 
They  filled  her  with  loathing  and  rage. 

She  was  capable  of   strange,  silent,  uncontrol- 


122     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

lable  rages  over  certain  things.  The  baffled  chase 
after  the  Story  was  one  of  them.  She  felt  red 
and  hot  when  she  thrust  back  the  blue  and  gold 
book  into  its  place. 

"  You  are  a  Beast !  "  she  muttered.  "  A  Beast 
-Beast- -Beast !  You  look  as  if  you  were  some- 
thing to  read — and  you're  nothing  ! ' 

It  would  have  been  a  pleasure  to  her  to  kick 
the  Keepsake  all  over  the  room,  and  dance  on  it. 
But  it  was  her  Mamma's  book.  The  next  pretty 
binding  contained  something  of  the  same  kind. 
It  enclosed  the  "  Countess  of  Blessington,"  the 
"  Hon.  Mrs.  Norton,"  and  "  L.  E.  L."  The  first 
two  ladies  did  not  interest  her,  because  they 
looked  too  much  like  the  Eudoras  and  Irenes,  but 
somehow  L.  E.  L.  caused  her  to  pause.  It  seemed 
curious  that  a  young  lady  should  be  called  L.  E. 
L.,  but  there  was  something  attractive  in  her 
picture.  She  was  a  slender  little  young  lady  in  a 
white  muslin  frock  and  a  very  big  belt  and  buckle, 
and  there  was  something  soft  and  prettily  dreamy 
in  her  small  face.  The  Small  Person  did  not 
know  why  she  looked  like  a  real  creature,  and 
made  one  feel  vaguely  sad,  but  it  was  very  thrill- 
ing to  discover  later  that  she  was  like  Alice  Ben- 
bolt — that  she  also  had  been  part  of  a  sort  of 
story — and  that,  like  Alice,  she 

"lay  under  the  stone." 


The  Secretaire  123 

It  was  when  she  had  been  put  back  on  the  shelf 
that  the  Small  Person  was  driven  to  take  down  a 
volume  of  Blackwood' s. 

I  wonder  how  much  depended  upon  her  tak- 
ing down  that  particular  volume.  I  am  more 
than  inclined  to  think  that  it  was  absolutely 
necessary  that  she  should  have  things  to  read. 
I  am  also  aware  that  no  one  knew  how  fierce 
her  childish  longings  were,  and  it  would  have 
occurred  to  nobody  about  her  that  she  had 
any  longings  unfulfilled  at  all,  unless  it  was  a 
desire  for  more  "sweeties"  than  would  have 
been  good  for  her.  The  kindly,  gentle  people 
who  loved  her  and  took  care  of  her  thought 
"  Peter  Parley's  Annual '  enough  for  any  little 
boy  or  girl. 

Why  not?  It  was  the  juvenile  literature  pro- 
vided for  that  day,  and  many  children  throve  on 
it.  She  was  not  an  intellectually  fevered-look- 
ing Small  Person  at  all.  She  was  a  plump,  red- 
cheeked  little  girl,  who  played  vigorously,  and 
had  a  perfect  appetite  for  oatmeal-porridge,  roast 
mutton,  and  rice  pudding. 

And  yet  I  can  imagine  that,  under  some  circum- 
stances, a  small,  imperfect,  growing  thing,  de- 
voured by  some  rage  of  hunger  it  cannot  reason 
about  or  understand,  and  which  is  forever  unsatis- 
fied, might,  through  its  cravings,  develop  some 
physical  fever  which  might  end  by  stilling  the 


124     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

ever-working  brain.  But  this  may  only  be  the 
fancy  of  an  imaginative  mind. 

The  Blackivood  was  a  big  book  and  heavy.  She 
opened  it  on  her  knee — and  it  opened  at  a  Story ! 

She  knew  it  was  a  story,  because  there  were  so 
many  short  lines.  That  meant  conversation — she 
called  it  "  talking."  If  you  saw  solid  blocks  of 
printed  lines,  it  was  not  very  promising,  but  if 
you  saw  short  lines  and  broken  spaces,  that  meant 
"  talking  '  -and  you  had  your  Story. 

Why  do  I  remember  no  more  of  that  story  than 
that  it  was  about  a  desolate  moorland  with  an  un- 
used, half-forgotten  well  on  it,  and  that  a  gentle- 
man— (who  cannot  have  been  a  very  interesting 
character,  as  he  is  not  remembered  clearly) — being 
considered  superfluous  by  somebody,  was  disposed 
of  and  thrown  into  it  in  the  role  of  a  Body?  It 
was  his  body  which  was  interesting,  and  not  him- 
self, and  my  impression  is  that  the  story  was  not 
specially  fascinating — but  it  was  a  Story,  and  if 
there  was  one  in  the  fat  volumes  there  must  be 
others — and  the  explorer  looked  with  gloating 
eyes  at  the  rows  of  fat  volumes — two  whole  rows 
of  them  ! 

She  took  down  others,  and  opening  them,  saw 
with  joy  more  "  talking."  There  were  stories  in 
all  of  them — some  which  seemed  to  be  continued 
from  month  to  month.  There  was  a  long  one 
called  "  The  Diary  of  a  Physician,"  another  called 


The  Secretaire  125 

"  Ten  Thousand  a  Year  " — this  last,  she  gathered 
in  a  few  glances,  contained  the  history  of  a  person 
called  Tittlebat  Titmouse — and  was  about  a  beau- 
tiful Kate  Aubrey,  and  her  virtuous  but  unfortu- 
nate family — and  about  a  certain  Lady  Cecilia- 
and,  oh  !  the  rapture  of  it ! 

Her  cheeks  grew  hotter  and  hotter,  she  read 
fast  and  furiously.  She  forgot  that  she  was 
perched  on  the  ledge,  and  that  her  legs  dan- 
gled, and  that  she  might  fall.  She  was  perched 
in  Paradise — she  had  no  legs — she  could  not 

• 

fall.  No  one  could  fall  from  a  Secretaire  filled 
with  books,  which  might  all  of  them  contain 
Stories  ! 

Before  long  she  climbed  up  and  knelt  upon  the 
ledge  so  that  she  could  be  face  to  face  with  her 
treasures,  and  reach  even  to  the  upper  shelves. 
With  beating  heart  she  took  down  volumes  that 
were  not  Blackwood's,  in  the  wild  hope  that  even 
they  might  contain  riches  also.  She  was  an  excit- 
able creature,  and  her  hands  trembled  as  she 
opened  them.  Across  a  lifetime  I  remember  that 
her  breath  came  quickly,  and  she  had  a  queer  feel- 
ing in  her  chest.  There  were  books  full  of  poetry, 
and,  oh,  Heaven,  the  poems  seemed  to  be  stories, 
too ! 

There  was  a  thing  about  an  Ancient  Mariner 
with  a  glittering  eye,  another  about  St.  Agnes's 
Eve,  another  about  a  Scotch  gentleman  called 


126     Tke   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

Marmion,  others  about  some  Fire  Worshippers, 
a  Peri  at  the  gate  of  Eden,  a  Veiled  Prophet,  a 
Corsair,  and  a  splendid  long  one  about  a  young 
man  whose  name  was  Don  Juan.  And  then  a 
very  stout  book  with  plays  in  it,  in  queer  old- 
fashioned  English.  Plays  were  stories.  There 
were  stories  about  persons  called  "  Othello," 
"  The  Merchant  of  Venice,"  "  Two  Gentlemen  of 
Verona,"  "  Romeo  and  Juliet,"  and  a  world  of 
others.  She  gasped  with  joy.  It  would  take 
months  to  finish  them  ! 

It  was  so  tragic  to  finish  a  book. 

"  1  wish  I  had  something  to  read,"  she  used  to 
say  often. 

"  Where  is  that  book  I  saw  you  with  yester- 
day ? " 

"  I've  finished  it,"  she  used  to  answer,  rather 
sheepishly,  because  she  knew  they  would  reply : 

"  Then  you  can't  have  read  it  properly.  You 
couldn't  have  finished  it  in  such  a  short  time. 
You  must  skip.  Read  it  again." 

Who  wanted  to  read  a  thing  again  when  a  hun- 
ger for  novelty  was  in  them  ? 

The  top  row  of  the  shelves  looked  so  unprom- 
ising that  she  was  almost  afraid  to  spoil  the 
happiness  by  touching  the  books. 

They  looked  ancient  and  very  like  arithmetics. 
They  were  bound  in  ugly  grayish  boards  with  a 
strip  of  brown  down  the  back. 


The  Secretaire  127 

She  pulled  herself  up  to  read  the  titles.  They 
all  seemed  to  belong  to  one  edition.  The  one  her 
eyes  seized  on  first  was  quite  a  shabby  one. 

"  The  Fair  Maid  of  Perth,"  she  read.  "  Waver- 
ley  Novels." 

Novels  were  stories !  "  The  Fair  Maid  of 
Perth."  She  snatched  it  from  its  place,  she  sat 
on  the  ledge  once  more  with  her  feet  dangling. 
"  The  Fair  Maid  of  Perth."  And  all  the  rest  were 
like  it !  Why,  one  might  read  forever  ! 

Were  the  slates  still  wet?  Was  the  gravelled 
Square  still  sopping  ?  Did  the  flagged  pavement 
still  shine  ?  Was  the  Doll  still  staring  in  her 
chair — nothing  but  a  Sawdust  Thing  ? 

She  knew  nothing  about  any  of  them.  Her 
feet  dangled,  her  small  face  burned,  she  bounded 
to  Perth  with  the  Fair  Maid.  How  long  after- 
ward a  certain  big  bell  rang  she  did  not  know. 
She  did  not  hear  it.  She  heard  nothing  until  a 
nursery  maid  came  in  and  brought  her  back  to 
earth. 

"  You  naughty  girl,  Miss  Frances.  The  tea- 
bell  has  rung  and  you  sitting  here  on  your  ma's 
Secretary — with  a  book  ! ' 

She  gathered  herself  together  and  scrambled 
off  the  ledge.  She  went  down  to  tea,  and  the 
thick  slices  of  bread  and  butter  deemed  suitable 
to  early  youth — but  she  had  the  gray  and  brown 
volume  under  her  arm. 


128     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  AIL 

The  governess  looked  at  her  with  the  cold  eye 
of  dignity  and  displeasure. 

"  You  have  a  book,"  she  said.  "  Put  it  down. 
You  are  not  allowed  to  read  at  table.  It  is  very 
rude." 


CHAPTER  VIII. 

T/ie  Party 

THE  Christmas  holidays  were  a  time  of  great 
festivity,  and  they  began  with  the  "  Breaking- 
up."  The  "  Breaking-up '  was  a  magnificent 
function,  and  was  the  opening  and  event  of  the 
season. 

"  We're  going  to  break  up  in  two  weeks,"  little 
girls  of  different  schools  said  to  each  other ;  "  when 
are  you  going  to  break  up  ? ' 

The  Breaking-up  was  the  delightful  ending  of 
the  school  clays,  and  the  rapturous  beginning  of 
the  holidays,  and  it  was  properly  celebrated  by  a 
party  given  by  the  ladies  who  were  the  proprie- 
tresses of  the  school. 

It  was  a  glorious  social  event,  looked  forward 
to  through  all  the  year,  but  it  was  not  entirely 
given  up  to  the  frivolous  caperings  of  emanci- 
pated youth.  It  had,  indeed,  a  utilitarian  signifi- 
cance and  importance  in  the  minds  of  the  host- 
esses. It  was,  in  fact,  not  all  cakes  and  ale,  though 
cakes  were  plentiful  and  ale — in  the  form  of  ne- 
gus and  lemonade — flowed  freely. 

Not  only  the  "  young  ladies  and  gentlemen  "  of 
9 


130     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

the  scholastic  establishment  were  invited,  but 
Mammas  and  Papas,  and  it  was  the  Mammas  and 
Papas  who  were  the  serious  feature  of  the  enter- 
tainment. The  Papas  did  not  always  appear,  but 
no  Mamma  was  ever  absent  unless  subdued  bv 

./ 

mortal  illness.  Nothing  less  would  have  kept 
one  away.  Papas  were  deterred  by  much  less 
serious  reasons. 

Only  an  ex-pupil,  chastened  by  the  seriousness 
of  years,  could  possibly  describe  the  splendor  of 
the  scene.  Until  thus  chastened,  his  adjectives 
would  get  the  better  of  him. 

Something  magic  was  done  to  the  entire  estab- 
lishment, which  gave  it  a  beautiful,  awe-inspiring 
air  of  not  being  the  same  house,  and  of  having 
nothing  whatever  to  do  with  lessons  ;  in  fact,  with 
anything  at  all  but  approaching  holidays.  Car- 
pets were  taken  up,  furniture  was  moved  from  one 
place  to  another,  or  whisked  out  of  sight  when  it 
was  in  the  way.  Holly  was  hung  and  wreathed 
about  pictures,  there  were  pink  and  white  paper 
roses,  and  from  the  centre  of  the  ceiling  of  the 
transformed  drawing-room  there  hung  candidly  a 
fine  piece  of  mistletoe.  Round  this  room,  against 
the  wall,  sat  the  Mammas  and  such  stray  Papas  as 
had  been  overcome  by  a  sense  of  paternal  duty  or 
by  domestic  discipline.  The  Mammas  were  al- 
ways attired  in  their  most  imposing  frocks.  They 
were  frocks  about  which  there  was  nothing:  frivo- 


The  Party  131 

lous — black,  or  gray,  or  purple,  or  brown  silks  or 
satins  ;  and  if  they  wore  caps — which  they  usually 
did — their  caps  were  splendid.  My  impression  is 
that  the  English  mamma  of  that  day  dressed  at 
twenty  as  she  did  at  fifty,  and  that  gayety  and 
youth  expressed  themselves  merely  in  caps,  which 
ventured  on  white  lace,  and  pink  or  blue  ribbon, 
instead  of  black  lace  and  purple  or  dark  red.  All 
Mammas  appeared  the  same  age  to  the  Small  Per- 
son, and  were  alike  regarded  with  the  reverence 
due  to  declining  years.  They  formed  an  imposing 
phalanx  at  the  "  Breaking-up." 

"  What  are  you  going  to  wear  at  the  Party  ?  ' 
every    little    girl    asked    every    other    little    girl 
some  time  during  the  weeks  before  the  festal  oc- 
casion. 

What  one  wore  was  an  exceedingly  brief  white, 
or  pink,  or  blue,  or  mauve  frock,  exceedingly 
beautiful  stockings,  exceedingly  new  slippers,  and 
an  exceedingly  splendid  sash — and  one's  hair  was 
"  done  "  in  the  most  magnificent  way.  Some  had 
crimps,  some  had  curls,  some  had  ribbons,  some 
had  round  combs.  The  Small  Person  had  rows 
and  rows  of  curls,  and  a  round  comb  to  keep  them 
out  of  her  eyes. 

The  little  boys  had  Eton  jackets,  broad  and 
spotless  collars,  and  beautiful  blue  and  red  bows 
for  neckties.  It  was  also  the  fashionable  thing 
for  the  straight-haired  ones  to  be  resplendently 


132     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

curled  by  the  hairdresser,  which  gave  a  finish- 
ing- touch  to  their  impressively  shining  and  gala 
air. 

The  pink  and  blue  and  white  frocks  and  sashes 
only  added  to  the  elated  delight  of  the  little  girls, 
I  am  sure.  They  enjoyed  their  slippers  and  tiny 
white  kid  gloves  (they  had  only  one  button  then), 
and  were  excited  by  their  little  lockets  and  neck- 
laces, but  I  do  not  think  the  boys  enjoyed  their 
collars  and  new  jackets,  or  ever  forgot  that  their 
hair  had  been  curled,  until  they  reached  the 
supper-room  and  were  handed  oranges  and  tipsy- 
cake. 

But  these  exhilarations  were  not  reached  until 
the  serious  business  of  the  evening  was  over.  It 
was  very  serious  to  the  Small  Person.  She  dis- 
liked it  definitely,  and  never  felt  that  the  "Break- 
ing-up  "  had  begun  until  her  share  of  it  was  over. 
To  walk  into  the  middle  of  the  room,  to  make 
one's  most  finished  little  courtesy,  and  then,  stand- 
ing, surrounded  by  a  circle  of  Mammas  in  their 
best  caps,  to  "  say  a  piece  of  poetry,"  was  not  an 
agreeable  thing.  I  do  not  think  her  performance 
ever  distinguished  itself  by  any  special  dramatic 
intelligence.  I  know  she  was  always  devoutly 
glad  when  it  was  over  and  she  could  make  the 
final  courtesy  and  hastily  retire.  She  also  felt  the 
same  sense  of  relief  when  she  had  struck  the  last 
chord  of  the  show  "  piece '  she  was  expected  to 


The  Party  133 

play  upon  the  piano,  and  reached  the  last  note  of 
her  exhibition  song.  When  one  reflects  that  each 
music  pupil  was  called  upon  for  a  like  perform- 
ance, and  that  numberless  careful  recitations 
were  given,  it  is,  perhaps,  not  unnatural  that 
Papas  were  not  plentiful.  But  not  a  Mamma 
flinched. 

But  after  all  this  was  over  the  Christmas  Hol- 
idays had  begun.  The  short  frocks  and  sashes 
danced  quadrilles  and  round  dances  with  the 
Eton  jackets  and  spotless  broad  collars.  There 
was  a  Christmas-tree  in  the  school -room  and 
upon  and  beneath  it  were  such  prizes  as  meri- 
torious efforts  had  gained  for  accomplishments 
or  good  conduct.  In  the  dining-room  there  were 
sandwiches  and  cake  and  oranges,  and  crackers 
with  mottoes  within  expressive  of  deep  and  ten- 
der emotions.  One  jumped  very  much  when 
they  went  off,  and  the  daring  exchanged  mottoes 
with  each  other.  Cowslip  wine  flowed  freely, 
and  there  was  negus  with  bits  of  lemon  floating 
in  it — in  fact,  one  felt  one's  self  absorbed  in  the 
whirling  vortex  of  society,  and  wondered  how 
grown-up  people,  to  whom  Parties  were  compar- 
atively every -day  affairs,  could  possibly  walk 
calmly  on  the  surface  of  the  earth.  The  Break- 
ing-up  was  a  glittering — a  brilliant  thing. 

And  it  was  only  the  beginning. 

All  through    the    three    weeks'    holiday   there 


134     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

were  other  entertainments  almost  as  brilliant. 
They  would  have  been  quite  as  brilliant  only 
that  they  were  not  the  "  Breaking-up."  Every 
little  boy  or  girl,  whose  Mamma  could  indulge 
in  such  a  luxury,  gave  a  Christmas  Party.  They 
were  all  called  Christmas  Parties  during  these 
holidays.  And  through  all  these  festivities  the 
Small  Person  was  conscious  of  a  curious  fatality 
which  pursued  her,  and  which  is  perhaps  worth 
recording  because  it  was  a  thing  so  human, 
though  she  did  not  in  the  least  comprehend  its 
significance. 

Each  time  that  a  note  arrived  "  hoping  to  have 
the  pleasure '  of  her  company — and  that  of  her 
sisters  and  brothers — wild  exhilaration  reigned. 
Everybody  began  to  be  excited  at  once.  A  party 
seemed  a  thing  it  was  impossible  to  wait  patiently 
for.  It  got  into  one's  head  and  one's  body,  and 
made  one  dance  about  instead  of  walking.  I  do 
not  think  this  resulted  from  anticipation  of  the 
polkas  and  games  or  the  negus  and  tipsy-cake,  or 
was  absolutely  a  consequence  of  the  prospect  of 
donning  the  white  frock  and  sash  and  slippers — it 
was  the  Party  that  did  it.  Perhaps  young  birds 
who  have  just  learned  to  fly,  young  ducks  in  their 
first  plunge  into  a  pond,  young  chanticleers  who 
have  discovered  they  can  crow,  may  feel  some- 
thing of  the  same  elation  and  delight.  It  was 
the  Party  ! 


The  Party  135 

And  when  such  eventful  evenings  arrived  what 
a  scene  the  Nursery  presented !  How  intoxicat- 
ing the  toilette  was — from  the  bath  to  the  snap- 
ping of  the  clasp  of  the  necklace  which  was  the 
final  touch !  How  one  danced  about,  and  broke 
into  involuntary  outbursts  of  romps  with  one's 
sisters !  How  impossible  it  was  to  stand  still 
while  one's  hair  was  curled,  and  how  the  poor 
nurse  and  governess  reproached,  reasoned,  im- 
plored for  decorum,  and  at  intervals  appealed  to 
one's  Mamma,  who  came  in  intending  to  restore 
order  with  a  word,  and  entering  amid  the  chaos 
of  frocks  and  sashes  and  unbridled  rapture,  was 
overwhelmed  by  its  innocent  uncontrollableness, 
and  said,  without  any  real  severity  at  all : 

"  Now,  children  !  You  really  must  be  quiet  and 
let  yourselves  be  dressed !  You  will  never  be 
ready  for  the  Party  ! ' 

The  last  awful  possibility  usually  restored  order 
for  a  few  seconds,  but  it  was  impossible  that  it 
should  last  long.  Nature  was  too  much  for  one. 

The  picture  of  the  Nursery  on  such  occasions  is 
one  of  those  which  remain  to  me.  The  bright 
fire,  which  danced  itself,  the  numberless  small 
garments  scattered  about,  the  Party  frocks  whose 
sacredness  entitled  them  to  places  apart  which 
seemed  quite  like  Altars,  the  sashes  lying  on  top 
of  them,  the  three  unrestrainable  small  persons 
darting  about  in  various  stages  of  undress,  the 


136     The   One  I  Knciu  the  Best  of  All 

nurse  pursuing  them  with  a  view  to  securing 
buttons  or  putting  on  slippers,  the  mirror  in 
which  one  saw  reflected  an  excited,  glorified 
Party  face,  with  large,  dancing  eyes,  and  round 


cheeks  which  were  no  other  shade  than  crimson 
or  scarlet.     These  are  the  details. 

But  the  clasp  of  the  necklace  snapped  at  last, 
the  small  white  glove  was  buttoned,  the  small 
wrap  enfolded  one's  splendor,  and  the  minute 


The  Party  137 

after  one  was  rolling  through  the  streets,  going 
to  the  Party. 

./ 

And  then  one  was  standing  upon  the  steps  and 
the  front  door  was  opened,  revealing  a  glittering 
scene  within,  where  numberless  muslin  or  tarla- 
tan frocks  and  Eton  jackets  passed  up  and  down 
the  enchanted  staircase,  or  hesitated  shyly  until 
some  hospitable  person  took  charge  of  their  tim- 
idity. 

To-day — even  in  the  manufacturing  towns  in 
England — the  entertainments  given  to  youth  are 
probably  not  of  a  nature  as  substantial  as  they 
were  then.  They  were  not  matters  of  mere  ices 
and  fruits  and  salads  then.  By  no  means.  The 
Small  Person  herself,  who  was  the  proprietor  of  a 
noble  and  well-rounded  appetite,  was  frequently 
conscious  of  staggering  a  little  under  the  civilities 
of  hospitality.  The  sad,  the  tragic  truth  which  is 
the  sting  of  life — that  one  can  have  Enough,  and 
that  after  it  one  wants  no  more — more  than  once 
touched  her  with  a  shade  of  gentle,  though  un- 
consciously significant,  melancholy.  She  realized 
no  occult  illustration  and  thought  it  a  mere  mat- 
ter of  cakes. 

First  there  was  tea.  One  sat  with  all  the  Party 
at  long  tables.  There  were  very  buttery  muffins 
and  crumpets  and  Sally-lunns,  and  preserves  and 
jellies  and  marmalade,  and  currant  cake,  and  pot- 
ted shrimps  and  potted  beef,  and  thin  bread-and- 


138     The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

butter  and  toast,  and  tea  and  coffee,  and  biscuits, 
and  one  was  asked  to  eat  them  all,  whether  one 
was  capable  of  it  or  not. 

"  Have  another  piece  of  muffin,  dear,"  the 
mamma  of  the  occasion  would  say,  with  pressing 
bounteousness.  "  Oh,  come,  you  must,  love — just 
one  piece — and  some  more  strawberry  jam ;  you 
have  not  made  a  good  tea  at  all.  Jane,"  to  the 
parlor-maid,  "  muffins  and  strawberry  jam  for 
Miss  Frances."  And  her  voice  was  always  so 
amiable,  and  it  was  so  hard  to  persist  in  saying, 
"  No,  thank  you,  Mrs.  Jones,"  with  all  the  Party 
looking  on,  that  one  tried  again  until  it  could  only 
have  been  through  a  special  intervention  of  Provi- 
dence that  appalling  consequences  did  not  ensue. 
And  then  when  that  was  over  one  went  into  the 
drawing-room,  which  was  decorated  with  holly 
and  mistletoe,  and  where  the  party  frocks  and 
Eton  jackets  at  first  exhibited  a  tendency  to  fight 
shy  of  each  other  and  collect  in  polite  little  groups 
until  somebody  grown  up  interfered  and  made 
them  dance  quadrilles  or  play  "  Hunt  the  Slipper" 
or  <4  Old  Soldier."  After  that  they  began  to  en- 
joy themselves.  They  were  not  precociously  con- 
ventional young  persons.  His  first  awkwardness 
worn  off,  the  Eton  Jacket  had  no  hesitation  in 
crossing  the  floor  to  the  particular  White  Frock 
seemins:  desirable  to  him. 

o 

"  Will   you   dance    this   waltz   with    me  ? '    he 


The  Party 


139 


would  say.  Upon  which  the  White  Frock  would 
either  reply : 

"  Yes,  I  will,"  or,  "  I've  promised  Jemmy  Daw- 
son,"  in  which  latter  case  the  Eton  Jacket  cheer- 
fully went  and  invited  somebody  else. 

There  were  a  great  many  polkas  and  schot- 
tisches.  These,  in  fact,  were  rather  the  popular 
dances.  They 
were  considered 
better  fun  than 
quadrilles.  The 
Party  danced 
them  until  it  be- 
came quite  hot, 
and  the  Eton 
jackets  were  con- 
strained to  apply 
handkerchiefs  to 
their  heated 
brows.  To  sub- 
due this  heat  and 

sustain  exhausted  nature,  trays  of  lemonade  and 
negus  and  oranges  and  little  cakes  appeared, 
borne  by  servant-maids  in  Party  caps  with  rib- 
bons. It  was  not  supposed  that  a  party  could 
subsist  on  air- -and  supper  would  not  be  an- 
nounced until  nearly  eleven.  The  oranges  were 
cut  in  quarters  and  halves  so  that  they  might  be 
easily  managed,  the  negus  was  usually  in  a  re- 


140     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

splendent  bowl  with  a  ladle  in  it.  Then  the  danc- 
ing began  again  and  there  were  more  games  and 
the  festivities  became  more  and  more  brilliant. 
The  White  Frocks  whirled  about  with  the  Eton 
Jackets,  they  were  candidly  embraced  under  the 
mistletoe,  the  grown-up  people  looked  on  and 
commented  upon  them  in  undertones  and  some- 
times laughed  a  great  deal.  Sometimes  in  danc- 
ing past  a  group  one  heard  some  one  say,  "  Em- 
my dances  very  well,"  or  "  How  pretty  Ma- 
rian is  ! '  or  "  Very  fine  boy,  Jack  Leslie  ! ' 
And  if  one  were  Emmy  or  Marian  or  Jack 
one  blushed  and  tried  to  look  as  if  one  had  not 
heard. 

It  was  generally  in  the  midst  of  this  whirl  of 
frocks  and  sashes,  the  gay  strains  of  the  dance- 
music,  the  chattering,  laughing  voices,  that  the 
Small  Person  found  herself  beset  by  that  fatality 
which  has  been  referred  to.  It  was  a  curious 
thought  which  gave  her  a  sense  of  restlessness 
she  did  not  like. 

She  was  very  fond  of  dancing.  She  was  an 
excitable  Small  Person,  and  the  movement,  the 
music,  the  rhythm  of  it  all  exalted  her  greatly. 
She  was  never  tired  and  was  much  given  to  en- 
tering into  agreements  with  other  White  Frocks 
and  Eton  Jackets  to  see  which  could  outdance 
the  other.  It  was  an  exciting  thing  to  do.  One 
danced  until  one's  cheeks  were  scarlet  and  one's 


The  Party  141 

heart  beat,  but  one  never  gave  up  until  some  one 
in  authority  interfered. 

Having  stopped-  -laughing  and  panting  and 
standing1  with  her  hand  against  her  little  side  as 

o  o 

she  watched  the  kaleidoscopic  whirl,  the  music 
and  voices  and  laughter  filling  her  ears,  she  so 
often  found  she  was  asking  herself  a  question, "  Is 
this  the  Party  ?  " 

It  seemed  as  if  something  in  her  insisted  on 
realizing  that  the  joy  looked  forward  to  with 
such  excitement  had  absolutely  materialized. 

"  Is  this  really  the  Party  ?"  she  would  say  men- 
tally. And  then,  to  convince  herself,  to  make  it 
real,  "  Yes,  this  is  the  Party.  I  am  at  the  Party. 
I  have  my  Party  frock  on — they  are  all  dancing. 
This  is  the  Party." 

And  yet  as  she  stood  and  stared,  and  the  gay 
sashes  floated  by,  she  was  restlessly  conscious  of 
not  being  quite  convinced  and  satisfied,  and  of 
something  which  was  saying, 

"  Yes — we  are  all  here.  It  looks  real,  but 
somehow  it  doesn't  seem  exactly  as  if  it  was  the 
Party." 

And  one  does  it  all  one's  life.  Everybody 
dances,  everybody  hears  the  music,  everybody 
some  time  wears  a  sash  and  a  necklace  and 
watches  other  White  Frocks  whirling  by-  -but 
was  there  ever  any  one  who  really  went  to  the 
Party  ? 


CHAPTER  IX. 

The  Wedding 

A  "  GROWN-UP  young  lady '  was  a  very  won- 
derful being.  She  wore  a  long  frock,  sometimes 
with  numbers  of  flounces,  she  went  to  church  in 
a  bonnet  made  of  tulle  and  flowers,  or  velvet  and 
little  plumes,  she  had  rings  on  and  possessed  a 
watch  and  chain.  It  was  thrilling  to  contemplate 
her  from  afar.  It  seemed  impossible  that  one 
could  ever  attain  such  dazzling  eminence  one's 
self.  She  went  to  Balls.  No  one  knew  what  a 
Ball  was,  but  it  was  supposed  to  be  a  speciallv 
magnificent  and  glorified  kind  of  Party.  At  Balls 
grown-up  gentlemen  in  dress  suits,  and  with  rare 
flowers  in  their  buttonholes,  danced  with  the 
young  ladies  who  wore  ethereal  dresses,  and  per- 
haps wreaths,  and  who  carried  bouquets.  These 
resplendent  and  regal  beings  talked  to  each  other. 
One  did  not  know  what  they  talked  about,  but 
one  was  sure  that  their  conversation  was  at  once 
sparkling,  polished,  and  intellectual  beyond  meas- 
ure, something  like  grammar,  geography,  and 
arithmetic  set  with  jewels  of  noble  sentiment  and 
brilliant  repartee.  Only  the  most  careful  applica- 


The    Wedding  143 

tion  to  the  study  of  one's  lessons,  one's  morals, 
and  one's  manners  could  fit  one  to  presume  to 
think  that  in  coming  ages  one  might  aspire  to 
mingle  with  such  society. 

The  proprietresses  of  the  school  at  which  the 
Small  Person  spent  her  early  educational  years 

• 

were  young  ladies.  But  no  one  in  the  school 
would  have  been  irreverent  enough  to  realize 
this.  Representing  as  they  did  education,  author- 
ity, information  of  the  vastest,  and  experience  of 
the  most  mature  dignity,  one  could  not  connect 
the  insignificance  of  youth  with  them.  One  of 

O  J 

them  was  perhaps  twenty-three,  the  other  twenty- 
four  or  five,  and  though  neither  wore  caps,  and 
both  wore  ringlets,  as  the  Mammas  all  seemed  of 
equal  age,  so  these  two  young  ladies  seemed  to  be 
of  ripe  years.  One  day,  indeed,  there  was  a  grave 
discussion  amonsr  the  little  o^irls  as  to  what  a^e 

o  o  o 

these  dignified  persons  had  attained,  and  one  of 
them  heard  it. 

She  was  really  a  rounded,  sparkling  -  eyed, 
rather  Hebe-like  little  creature,  with  a  profusion 
of  wonderful  black  ringlets.  It  was  the  hour  of 
ringlets. 

"  And  how  old  do  you  think  I  am  ? '  she  in- 
quired of  one  of  her  pupils. 

She  was  looking  at  them  from  behind  her  table, 

C5 

with  rather  amused  eyes,  and  suddenly  the  Small 
Person,  who  was  regarding  her,  became  subtly 


144     The  One  I  Knew  tlie  Best  of  AIL 

conscious  of  a  feeling  that  it  was  possible  that  she 
was  younger   than   the   Mammas.     "  How   old  ? ' 
said    the   girl    who   had    been    asked.     "  Well — I 
should  think — of  course  I  don't  know,  but  I  should 
think — about  forty." 

It  was  interesting,  but  seemed  rather  unnatural 
that  their  friends  and  companions  seemed  to  be 
real  young  ladies.  Was  it  possible  that  there 
were  real  vouns:  ladies  whose  recreation  consisted 

J  O 

in  talking  about  Roman  emperors,  the  boundaries 
of  Europe,  the  date  when  Richard  I.  began  to 
reign,  Lindley  Murray's  impressions  on  the  sub- 
ject of  personal  pronouns,  and  the  result  of  the 
"  coming  over '  of  William  the  Conqueror  ? 
Could  it  be  that  when  they  took  tea  together 
they  liked  to  be  asked  suddenly,  "  Who  was  the 
first  King  of  all  England?"  or  "What  is  Mac- 
clesfield  noted  for?"  or  "Where  are  the  Oural 
Mountains?' 

It  seemed  as  if  it  would  be  more  than  human 
nature  could  endure  to  have  such  delicate  ques- 
tions as  these  pressed  and  dwelt  upon,  in  com- 
bination with  muffins  and  thin  bread-and-butter, 
but  what  else  could  they  talk  about  ?  Uneducated 
flippancies  were  impossible. 

A  faint  suggestion  of  other  possibilities  was 
shadowed  forth  in  the  imaginative  mind  of  the 
Small  Person  by  her  introduction  one  day  to  two 
pink  silk  dresses.  They  were  shown  to  her  by 


The    Wedding  145 

the  little  sister  of  the  two  teachers,  and  they  were 
to  be  worn  by  these  sedate  persons  to  a  Ball. 

The  ladies  were  the  elder  daughters  of  one  of 
the  2/;/widowed  gentlemen  in  reduced  circum- 
stances. He  had  begun  life  as  a  presumable  heir 
to  an  old  estate  and  fortune.  Fate  had  played 
him  a  curious  trick  which  disinherited  him,  and 
ended  in  his  living  in  the  Square,  and  in  his 
daughters  keeping  a  "  select  seminary  for  young 
ladies  and  gentlemen."  But  they  had  relatives 
on  whom  Fate  had  not  played  tricks,  and  there 
were  some  young  ladies  in  beautiful  little  bonnets, 
who  were  their  cousins,  and  who  came  to  see 
them,  in  a  carnage,  and  were  considered  radiant. 

"  The  carriage  from  Grantham  Hall  is  standing 
before  the  Hatleigh's  door,"  some  child  would 
announce  to  another.  "  Let  us  go  and  walk  past. 
It  is  Miss  Eliza  who  is  in  it,  and  you  know  she's 
the  prettiest.  She  has  a  lavender  silk  frock  on 
and  a  lace  parasol." 

There  were  legends  of  marvellous  enjoyments  at 
Grantham  Hall.  Perhaps  they  were  all  results  of 
the  imaginations  of  tender  years,  but  they  con- 
tinually floated  in  the  air.  Perhaps  the  younger 
sisters  were  rather  proud  of  the  possession  of 
cousins  who  went  to  Balls  and  had  such  bonnets. 

But  it  is  a  fact  without  doubt  that  the  two  pink 
silk  frocks  were  preparation  for  some  gala  event 

at  Grantham. 
10 


146     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  AIL 

The  Best  Friend  was  one  of  the  younger  sisters 
(their  name  was  legion),  and  it  was  she  who  first 
imparted  to  the  Small  Person  the  thrilling  con- 
fidence that  Sister  and  Janey  had  each  a  beautiful 
pink  frock  to  wear  at  the  party  at  Grantham. 

"  They  are  both  lying  on  the  bed  in  the  spare 
bedroom,"  said  the  Best  Friend.  "  The  party  is 
to-night,  and  they  are  all  ready  to  put  on.  I 
wish  Sister  would  let  me  take  you  in  to  look  at 
them." 

The  little  lady  who  was  supposed  to  be  forty 
was  always  called  "  Sister."  She  was  the  eldest 
of  a  family  of  nine.  On  being  appealed  to  she 
was  sufficiently  indulgent  to  give  permission  to 
the  Best  Friend  to  exhibit  the  festal  glories. 

So  the  Small  Person  was  taken  into  the  spare 
bedroom.  It  was  no  trivial  incident.  The  two 
pink  silk  frocks  lay  upon  the  bed,  the  waiting 
wings  of  two  brilliant  butterflies,  at  the  moment 
setting  copies  in  a  chrysalis  state.  They  had 
numberless  tiny  flounces  "  pinked  out"  in  lovely 
little  scallops  round  the  edge,  they  had  short 
puffs  for  sleeves,  and  they  had  low  bodices  with 
berthas  of  tulle  and  tiny  rosebuds  around  them. 

The  Small  Person  positively  blushed  with  ad- 
miration and  rapture.  How  could  Sister,  being 
attired  in  a  thing  like  this,  lift  her  dark  eyes  to 
the  grown-up  gentleman  waltzing  with  her  and 
say  to  him  with  proper  firmness: 


The    Wedding 


147 


" 


Fifteen    from    fifty-seven    and    how   many  re- 
main ? ' 

The  Small  Person  felt  it  would  be  impossible, 
though  she  knew  nothing  whatever  of  the  circum- 
stances under  which  it  was 
not  impossible  for  a  very 
bold  grown-up  gentleman 
to  say : 

"  My  charming  Sis- 
ter,   my    education 
has  been  neglect- 
ed,   but    if    you 
will    give    me 
the   fifty-sev- 
en and  per- 
m  it     me 


148     77ie   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

to  take  the  fifteen  away,  I  will  endeavor  to  calcu- 
late." 

It  might  easily  have  been  Sister  and  Janey  who 
were  the  principal  features  of  the  two  marriages 
which  were  the  first  nuptial  ceremonies  appear- 
ing upon  the  stage  of  the  Small  Person's  existence. 
But  it  was  two  of  the  cousins  who  were  the 
brides — two  of  the  young  ladies  from  Grantham 
Hall. 

Rumors  of  the  approaching  ceremonies  being 
whispered  in  the  school-room,  the  most  thrilling 
interest  was  awakened.  The  prospect  was  more 
exciting  than  the  breaking-up  itself.  There  was 
something  at  once  festive  and  imposing  about 
it.  Opinions  as  to  the  nature  of  the  ceremony 
were  numerous  and  varied.  No  one  had  ever 
attended  a  wedding,  and  yet  somehow  nearly 
everyone  could  supply  some  detailed  informa- 
tion. 

Whispered  conversation  on  the  subject  could 
not  be  wholly  repressed,  even  by  authority. 
From  some  mysterious  reliable  source  it  was  as- 
certained that  the  principal  features  of  the  sacred 
contract  were  that  the  gro \vn-up  young  lady  wore 
a  singularly  resplendent  and  ethereal  white  frock, 
that  she  was  wreathed  with  orange-blossoms  and 
adorned  with  a  white  veil  accompanied  by  a 
splendid  bouquet  and  a  grown-up  gentleman. 
The  grown-up  gentleman  was  not  dwelt  upon  par- 


The    Wedding  149 

ticularly  ;  one  always  asked  of  the  bride,  "  Is  she 
pretty  ? '  but  nobody  ever  inquired  if  he  was 
pretty.  He  seemed  immaterial,  so  to  speak,  and 
when  not  slurred  over  he  seemed  somehow  to  be 
regarded  with  some  slight  vague  distrust. 

Every  pupil  knew  what  the  bride  was  going  to 
be  dressed  in,  what  her  veil  was  made  of,  what 
flowers  were  to  compose  her  bouquet,  but  no  in- 
terest whatever  was  felt  in  the  possible  costume 
qf  the  grown-up  gentleman. 

The  Small  Person,  while  interested  in  him  as  a 
mystery,  was  conscious  that  he  Avas  regarded  as  a 
sort  of  necessary  flaw  in  the  occasion.  The  Story 
gave  him  interest  to  her.  She  had  never  seen 
him,  but  recollections  of  Ernest  Maltravers,  Quen- 
tin  Durward,  and  the  Master  of  Ravenswood  gave 
him  a  nebulous  form.  The  wedding  was  to  be  a 
double  one,  the  two  sisters  being  married  at  once, 
consequently  there  were  two  grown-up  gentlemen 
involved,  and  it  was  rather  soul-stirring  to  hear  a 
vague  rumor  that  one  of  them — who  was  very 
handsome,  having  dark  eyes  and  a  straight  nose 
-was  not  smiled  upon  by  the  bride's  papa,  and 
that  he  had  forced  his  way  to  the  altar  through 
serious  parental  opposition.  He  was  not  consid- 
ered a  sufficiently  staid  and  well-to-do  grown-up 
gentleman.  There  were  suggestions  of  the  Mas- 
ter of  Ravenswood  in  this. 

"  I  wonder  if  they  like  each  other  very  much  ? ' 


150     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

this  sentimental  little  Person  rather  timidly  in- 
quired. 

But  no  one  seemed  to  know  anything  beautiful 
and  romantic  about  it,  so  she  combined  with  his 
straight  nose  and  dark  eyes  the  misfortunes  and 
attributes  of  all  the  heroes  in  the  "  Secretaire," 
and  found  it  thrilling  that  he  was  on  the  point  of 
leading  to  the  shrine  the  veil  and  the  orange-blos- 
soms, and  thus  being  made  happy  forever  after. 

What  a  morning  it  was  when  the  wedding  took 
place.  There  were  no  lessons.  The  two  young 
teachers  were  to  be  among  the  bridemaids.  They 
were  to  wear  veils  and  wreaths  themselves,  and 
several  of  the  most  decorous  little  girls  were 
going  to  the  church  to  look  at  them.  They  went 
in  a  body,  attired  in  their  best  frocks  and  feeling 
quite  light-headed  with  their  exalted  sense  of  an- 
ticipation. 

The  sun  was  shining  brilliantly,  everything  was 
shining  brilliantly  one  felt.  The  cabs  and  omni- 
buses seemed  to  rattle  by  with  a  gay,  rather  reck- 
less air,  the  passers-by  moved  more  briskly  than 
usual,  in  fact  there  was  in  the  atmosphere  a  sug- 
gestion that  everybody  and  everything  must  be 
going  to  a  wedding.  Everybody  of  course  must 
know  about  it  and  be  interested,  indeed  there 
were  evidences  of  interest  in  the  fact  that  as 
people  passed  by  they  nearly  always  glanced  at 
the  open  church  door,  and  a  few  rather  shabby 


The    Wedding  1 5  t 

persons  having  loitered  about  the  entrance,  their 
number  continued  adding  to  itself  until  they 
formed  a  waiting  group. 

The  Small  Person  and  her  companions  waited 
also.  Nobody  could  have  thought  of  going  into 
the  church  until  the  carriages  had  arrived  and 
they  had  seen  everybody  get  out,  not  to  mention 
the  fact  that  being  inexperienced  they  were  timid 
and  lacked  the  courage  to  take  any  bold  steps. 
They  stood  very  much  in  awe  of  an  official  in  a 
sort  of  gown  who  was  known  as  the  "  Parroter," 
and  whose  function  it  was  to  show  people  to 
pews  on  Sunday  and  look  pained  and  annoyed 
when  little  boys  sneezed  too  frequently  or  drop- 
ped things. 

"  Perhaps  the  Parroter  wouldn't  let  us  in,"  said 
someone.  "  Dare  you  ask  him?  ' 

But  nobody  dared  do  anything  until  the  bridal 
party  arrived.  It  seemed  as  if  it  would  never 
come.  The  waiting  in  the  street  seemed  to  last 
hours  and  hours,  and  was  filled  with  tumultuous 
agitations  caused  by  false  alarms  that  the  car- 


riages were  coming. 


"Here  they  are!  Here  they  are!"  somebody 
would  cry.  "  I'm  sure  that's  a  carriage  turning 
the  corner  down  the  street.  Don't  you  see  it  ?  ' 
And  then  everyone  became  elated  and  moved  ner- 
vously for  fear  she  had  not  a  good  place,  and 
pulses  quickened  and  hearts  beat — and  the  car- 


152     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

riage  probably  turned  out  to  be  a  cab.  They 
wandered  up  and  clown  restlessly  to  make  the 
time  pass  more  quickly,  and  one  or  two  bold 
spirits  even  went  and  peeped  into  the  church, 
but  retired  precipitately  at  the  approach  of  the 
"  Parroter."  The  Small  Person — after  what  ap- 
peared to  her  some  sixteen  hours  of  suspense 
and  agitation-  -  was  pervaded  by  an  awful  se- 
cret fear  that  at  the  last  moment  Quentinravens- 
woodmaltravers  had  been  forever  tabooed  by 
his  bride's  family  and  there  would  be  no  wedding 
at  all. 

But  at  last,  at  last  the  bells  began  to  ring  that 
loud,  gay,  hilarious  wedding-chime,  the  bell-notes 
seeming:  to  race  and  tumble  over  each  other  in 

o 

their  hurry  to  be  joyful. 

There  wras  something  curiously  intoxicating 
about  it.  It  was  the  Party  over  again — only  more 
than  the  Party.  The  Small  Person  looked  up  at 
the  bell-tower  and  the  blue  sky  behind  it.  What 
exquisite  blue  sky  !  What  soft  little  fleecy  white 
clouds  !  What  a  beautiful  day  !  "  Happy  is  the 
bride  that  the  sun  shines  on."  Someone  had  said 
that,  and  the  sun  was  shining !  The  carriages 
were  there  and  the  crowd  about  her  wras  stirring 
Avith  excited  curiosity.  But  she  saw  only  vapor- 
ous whiteness  and  flowers  and  dowagers'  rich 
colors,  with  blots  of  grown-up  gentlemen.  The 
sun  was  shining,  the  bells  were  chiming,  the 


The    Wedding  153 

church  was  filling".  Happy  was  the  bride  that 
the  sun  shone  on.  But  all  brides  were  hap- 
py ?  The  sun  always  shone  on  them.  What  a 
strange,  delightful,  exalting  event  it  was  to  be 
Married ! 

She  never  knew  how  she  was  led  or  dragged  or 
hustled  into  the  church.  Some  other  little  girl 
more  practical  and  executive  than  herself  man- 
aged her.  But  presently  she  was  there,  ensconced 
in  a  high  pew  in  the  cathedral  grayness.  The 
church  was  a  cathedral  and  impressed  her  deeply. 
She  felt  religious  and  wondered  if  she  ought  not 
to  say  her  prayers.  She  was  not  calm  enough  to 
see  detail — she  was  too  emotional  a  Small  Person, 
and  this  was  the  first  time  she  had  seen  anyone 
married.  The  vaporous  whiteness,  the  floating 
veils  and  flowers  were  grouped  about  the  altar, 
the  minister  seemed  to  be  taking  the  brides  and 
the  grown-up  gentlemen  to  task  at  some  length. 
He  called  them  Dearly  Beloved,  but  appeared  to 
address  rather  severe  warnings  to  them.  The 
Small  Person  had  a  vague  feeling  that  he  was  of 
the  opinion  that  they  would  come  to  a  bad  end  if 
not  admonished  in  time.  She  hoped  they  would 
not — particularly  Quentinravenswoodmaltravers, 
whose  straight  nose  she  had  been  too  deeply' 
moved  to  single  out  from  the  rest.  For  a  moment 
or  so  she  felt  that  it  was  so  solemn  to  be  married 
that  it  was  almost  conducive  to  low  spirits.  But 


154     The   One  T  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

she  cheered  up  after  the  minister  appeared  to 
have  relented  and  let  them  off  and  they  moved 
away  to  the  vestry.  Then  there  was  a  stir  among 
the  spectators,  which  soon  became  a  bustle,  and 
she  was  led  or  dragged  or  hustled  out  into  the 
sunshine  and  renewed  joyous  clangor  of  the  bells. 
There  was  a  great  bustle  outside.  The  crowd 
of  lookers-on  had  increased,  and  a  policeman  was 
keeping  it  back,  while  the  carriages  stood  in  line 
and  closed  up  one  by  one  as  the  floating  frocks 
and  veils,  and  dowagers'  velvets  and  satins,  and 
blots  of  grown-up  gentlemen  filled  them,  and  were 
driven  away.  The  Small  Person  watched  it  all  as 
in  a  dream.  The  bells  raced  and  clamored,  the 
sun  shone  brighter  than  ever.  She  was  only  a 
Small  Person  who  had  really  nothing  to  do  with 
these  splendors  and  who  no  more  contemplated 
the  magnificent  prospect  of  being  married  herself 
than  she  contemplated  being  crowned  in  West- 
minster Abbey.  Such  glories  as  these  were  only 
for  grown-up  people.  But  they  were  beautiful- 
beautiful  ! 

The  young  ladies  who    had    been  married — in 
full  panoply  of  white  satin  and  wreaths  and  veils 
-were  each  handed  into  a  carriage  by  the  grown- 
up gentleman  they  belonged  to,  who  got  into  the 
carriage  also. 

o 

After  they  had  all  driven  away,  the  bells  had 
ceased  their  clamor,  and  the  crowd  dispersed,  one 


Tk  e    I  Vedding  1 5  5 

sharp-eyed  little  person  made  a  most  interesting 
statement : 

"  I  saw  in  as  their  carriage  drove  past,"  she  an- 
nounced, "  and  he  had  Miss  Grantham's  head  on 
his  shoulder." 

"Which  one  was  it?"  inquired  the  Small  Per- 
son. She  was  sure  it  was  Quentinravenswoodmal- 

travers. 

And  inquiry  proved  that  it  was. 


CHAPTER  X. 

The  Strange  Tiling 

IT  seems  inevitable  that  each  individual,  in  look- 
ing back  to  childhood  and  the  school-room,  should 
recall  distinct  memories  of  certain  children  who 
somehow  stood  out  from  among  their  fellows, 
made  prominent  or  set  apart  a  little  by  some 
beauty,  strength,  or  cleverness,  or  some  unattrac- 
tiveness  or  disability.  There  is,  perhaps,  in  every 
school-room,  the  girl  or  boy  who  is  handsome, 
who  has  fine  eyes  or  splendid  hair,  the  one  who 
learns  lessons  with  amazing  quickness,  the  one 
who  is  specially  well-dressed  and  has  an  air  of  well- 
being,  the  one  who  is  dull  or  common-looking,  the 
one  who  is  somehow  commoner  than  anyone  else, 
the  one  who  has  an  easy,  fearless  manner,  and  is 
suspected  of  being  the  "  favorite  "  of  those  in  au- 
thority, the  one,  poor  child,  who  is  physically  ugly 
and  unpleasant,  and  cannot  rise  against  the  fate 
which  has  treated  him  so  cruelly. 

The  Small  Person  knew  each  of  these  types. 
She  was  not  consciously  an  aristocratic  little  Per- 
son, but  she  had  an  intense,  silent  dislike  to,  and 
impatience  of,  the  "  common '  ones.  She  found 


The  Strange    Thing  157 

them  antipathetic  to  a  degree  which  was  trying, 
as  one  of  them  happened  to  be  amusing  and 
another  really  good-natured.  She  continually 
tried  to  adjust  herself  to  them,  but  the  "  common- 
ness" always  interfered.  It  made  the  good-nat- 
ured one  ridiculous  and  the  amusing  one  odious 
and  unprincipled.  Among  the  younger  ones  there 
was  a  little  boy  who  impressed  her  without  actually 
being  interesting.  He  was  not  clever,  he  was  not 
pretty,  he  was  not  engaging.  He  was  an  inoffen- 
sive little  fellow,  and  set  apart  in  her  imagination 
by  a  mysterious  unfortunateness.  As  I  look  back 
I  think  it  possible  that  he  was  really  a  shy  and 
gentle  little  fellow,  on  whom  one's  maturity  might 
look  with  great  tenderness.  The  Small  Person 
felt  a  vague  kindliness  for  him,  though  she  was 
not  at  all  intimate  with  him. 

"  He  is  very  delicate,"  people  said  of  him,  and 
she  could  not  but  regard  him  with  a  sort  of  curi- 
ousness.  She  was  not  delicate,  no  one  belonging 
to  her  was  delicate.  She  belonged  to  a  family  of 
romping,  red-blooded  creatures,  and  the  idea  of 
being  "  delicate  '  seemed  mysterious  as  well  as 
mournful. 

And  he  had  such  a  strange,  unnatural  look.     He 
was  slight  and  insignificant,  light-haired  and  gray- 
eyed,  and  he  had  a  peculiarity  marked  among  the 
groups  of  plump  and  rosy  juveniles  about  him- 
instead  of  being  pink  or  rose-colored,  his  cheeks 


158     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

and  lips  were  bluish  purple.  They  were  distinct- 
ly far  from  the  normal  color.  They  were  not  red 
at  all,  and  sometimes  they  looked  quite  violet. 

"  What  a  queer  color  Alfie's  lips  are,"  was  often 
said.  "  Isn't  it  funny  ?  They're  blue,  and  so  are 
his  cheeks." 

And  then  someone  would  say  wisely,  and  rather 
proud  of  the  superior  knowledge : 

"  It's  because  he  has  heart  disease.  I  heard  Miss 
Janey  speaking  about  it.  He  may  die  quite  sud- 
denly." 

And  then  someone  would  know  stories  of  peo- 
ple who  had  died  suddenly,  and  would  relate  them, 
and  a  sense  of  awe  would  pervade  everybody,  as 
it  always  did  when  Death  was  spoken  of — though 
it  was  so  impossible,  so  impossible  that  any  of  them- 
selves could  die.  People  did  die,  of  course,  peo- 
ple who  had  lived  to  be  quite  old,  or  who  had 
caught  scarlet  fever  in  some  phenomenal  way,  but 
somehow  they  seemed  to  belong  to  a  world  quite 
far  off  and  quite  different  to  the  one  in  which  one's 
self  lived — to  the  world  of  the  Nursery  and  the 
Square,  and  the  Schoolroom  where  one  did  one's 
sums  wrong  and  could  not  remember  the  date  of 
Henry  VIII.'s  marriage  with  Anne  Boleyn.  Oh, 
no,  that  would  be  too  incongruous ! 

It  gave  the  Small  Person  a  curious  feeling  to  try 
to  realize  that  the  plain,  quiet  little  boy  with  the 
blue  lips  might  die — die  quite  suddenly.  Once  she 


The  Strange    Thing  159 

gave  him  a  new  slate-pencil  because  of  it,  though 
she  did  not  tell  him  why,  and  was  perhaps  scarce- 
ly definite  herself  about  it.  She  used  to  forget 
her  geography  in  looking  at  him  questioningly 
when  he  did  not  see  her. 

It  must  have  been  one  of  the  "  common  '  ones 
who  one  morning  came  to  her,  wearing  an  air  of 
excited  elation  in  her  consciousness  of  having 
startling  news  to  impart,  and  who  greeted  her 
with— 

"  Have  you  heard  about  Alfie  Burns?' 
"  No,"  she  answered  ;  "  what  about  him  ? >: 
"  He's  dead"  said  the  news-bearer.     "  He  wasn't 
at  school  yesterday — and  he  died  this  morning." 

So  the  Strange  Thing  came  among  them  into 
the  school-room — among  the  forms  and  desks  and 
battered  books,  making  itself  in  an  unreal  way  as 
real  as  the  ink-stands  and  slate-pencils.  It  had 
come  to  Alfie  Burns,  with  his  little  ordinary  face 
and  lank  hair,  and  yet  it  still  remained  impossible. 
It  had  come  to  Alfie  Burns — but  it  could  not  come 
to  any  of  the  rest  of  them.  Somehow  he  must 
have  been  "  different."  He  was  "  delicate '  and 
had  that  queer  color.  At  any  rate  he  was  "  differ- 
ent "  now,  and  seemed  impossible,  too.  There  was 
a  curious  intense  craving  for  detail  among  the 
older  ones.  Everyone  wanted  to  know  how  he 
had  died,  and  if  he  had  said  anything.  In  the 
books  of  memoirs  the  little  boy  or  girl  always 


160     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

said  "  last  words,"  which  were  a  sort  of  final  script- 
ural or  instructive  effort.  They  were  usually 
like  this : 

"  Father,"  said  James,  between  his  paroxysms  of 
agony, "  try  to  be  a  better  man  that  you  may  meet 
me  in  Heaven." 

"  Brother  Thomas,"  said  Mary  Ann,  faintly,  "  do 
as  mother  tells  you  and  obey  your  Sabbath-school 
teacher." 

"  Please  do  not  swear  any  more,  Uncle  William 
Henry,"  said  little  Jane,  as  her  mother  wiped 
the  death-damp  from  her  brow.  "  I  shall  be  in 
Heaven  in  a  few  minutes  and  I  want  you  to 
come." 

Remembering  these  thinsrs  one  wondered  what 

o  o  ^ 

Alfie's  "  last  words  '  had  been.  It  would  have 
seemed  almost  impossible  that  anyone  could  die 
without  last  words.  Wicked  people  always  ex- 
pired in  frightful  torment,  using  profane  language 
or  crying  for  mercy  or  writhing  with  remorse  be- 
cause they  had  not  been  better  before  they  were 
taken  ill.  Alfie  had  been  a  sort  of  indefinite,  in- 
significant little  boy.  He  was  not  naughty,  but 
his  goodness  had  a  passive  negative  quality  and 
he  never  reproved  or  instructed  anyone.  So  it 
was  difficult  to  adjust  one's  self  to  the  situation, 
and  imagine  how  the  Strange  Thins:  would  find 

o  o  o 

him  when  it  came. 

And  nobody  knew  any  detail.     There  seemed 


The  Strange    Thing  161 

to  be  none.  He  had  died,  and  of  course  it  was 
supposable  that  his  parents  had  cried,  and  we 
knew  he  would  be  buried.  And  though  the  event 
was  discussed  and  discussed  from  all  points  of 
view  this  was  all  anyone  knew. 

No  one  had  ever  been  to  his  house  or  seen  his 
parents.  They  were  quiet  business  people  who 
did  not  belong  to  the  Square,  and,  as  far  as  the 
school  seemed  to  know,  he  had  no  brothers  or  sis- 
ters and  must  have  had  a  rather  dull  life.  He 
did  not  seem  to  have  any  particular  companions 
or  to  invite  people  to  his  house  to  play  or  to  have 
tea  with  him. 

According  to  all  orthodox  beliefs — and  in  an 
innocent  way  nothing  could  have  been  more  or- 
thodox than  all  the  school—he  had  gone  to 
Heaven  and  was  an  Angel. 

This  the  Small  Person  found  a  tremendous 
problem  to  grasp.  I  know  that  it  pervaded  her 
for  days,  and  I  wonder  why  she  did  not  talk 
about  it  to  somebody  grown  up.  Perhaps  it 
was  her  infant  English  habit  of  reserving  her 
sentiments  and  emotions,  combined  with  her  se- 
cret consciousness  that  she  was  so  little  and 
that  the  grown-up  people  were  so  big  that  they 
could  not  really  understand  one  another's  point 
of  view.  Of  course,  to  people  who  knew  all 
about  Death  and  Heaven  and  Angels,  her  re- 
marks would  seem  silly  and  trivial — perhaps 
n 


1 62     The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

even  disrespectful.  She  did  not  ask  anything, 
but  was  oppressed  and  permeated  by  a  vague 
sadness  and  sense  of  unexplained  things. 

Heaven  was  a  place  without  laws  or  boun- 
daries. Anything  could  be  done  there — if  one 
once  got  in — and  everything  was  there.  There 
was  a  Great  White  Throne,  there  were  streets 
of  gold,  and  walls  built  of  "  all  manner  of  pre- 
cious stones."  The  stones  she  remembered 
principally  were  the  chalcedony  and  sardonyx, 
sardius,  chrysolite,  beryl,  and  chrysoprasus,  be- 
cause they  had  strange  names,  and  she  wondered 
what  color  they  were.  And  there  was  a  Woman 
on  a  "  scarlet-colored  beast,  full  of  names  of 
blasphemy,  having  seven  heads  and  ten  horns," 
and  though  she  was  in  Heaven  she  was  "  drunk- 
en with  the  blood  of  the  saints."  And  there 
were  Dragons  and  Beasts,  and  there  were  El- 
ders and  Pale  Horses  and  Golden  Candlesticks 
and  Golden  Vials.  And  the  Beasts  were  full  of 
eyes  before  and  behind  and  had  six  wings  each, 
and  the  horses  had  breast-plates  of  fire  and  ja- 
cinth and  brimstone,  and  heads  of  lions,  and  fire 
and  smoke  came  out  of  their  mouths.  It  was  all 
in  Revelations  and  so  it  was  true.  Heaven  was 
like  that,  and  Alfie  Burns  had  gone  there — out 
of  the  school-room  and  the  atmosphere  of  ink- 
stands and  copy-books,  from  making  mistakes 
in  his  sums  and  cleaning  his  slate  with  an  un- 


The  Strange    Thing  163 

savory  "  slate  -rag'  or  sponge,  from  looking 
yearningly  out  at  the  other  slates  on  the  roofs  to 
see  if  it  was  raining  and  there  was  no  prospect  of 
playing.  And  now  suddenly  he  was  an  Angel  and 
wore  wings.  Wings  seemed  as  impossible  as  the 
Strange  Thing  which  had  happened  to  him.  It 
was  so  difficult  to  adjust  them  to  his  little  blue- 
lipped  face  and  small,  insignificant  figure  which 
his  clothes  seemed  always  rather  too  large  for. 

"  But  he  would  be  quite  different,"  the  Small 
Person  persisted  obstinately  to  herself  as  her 
only  consolation.  "  He  would  be  quite  different 
and  he  would  be  dressed  in  white  robes." 

The  draperies  she  tried  to    see  him   in   were 
something   of   the  nature  of  a  very  voluminous, 
very   white  night-gown — but  at   all   events   they 
were  "  quite  different."     The  interest  of  all  this 
is  that  what  we  begin  with  at  seven  we  seem  to 
end  with  at  seventy.     How  are  we  less  vague- 
what  more  do  we  know  ?      Nothing — nothing- 
nothing,  but  that  whatever  it  is — wherever  it  is 
-it  is  "  quite  different." 

In  the  years  which  lie  between  we  have  learned 
more  geography,  more  astronomy,  we  have 
learned  that  the  blue  is  space  and  the  clouds 
are  vapor,  but  what  more  definite,  but  that  we 
clamor  for  something,  we  plead  for  something, 
we  must  have  something,  we  ought  to  have  some- 
thing "  quite  different." 


164     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

Somebody  -  probably  it  was  the  executive, 
practical  little  girl  who  had  had  the  energy  and 
ability  to  hustle  the  vague  Small  Person  into  the 
church  at  the  Grantham  wedding-  -  somebody 
proposed  that  two  or  three  select  ones  should  go 
to  Alfie's  home  and  ask  to  be  allowed  to  "  see  ' 
him. 

The  Small  Person  was  awed.  She  wanted 
very  much  to  see  him- -what  was  left  of  him 
after  he  had  become  an  angel.  "  His  soul  has 
gone  to  Heaven,  his  body  is  only  dust,"  that  was 
what  was  always  said.  She  somehow  wanted  to 
look  at  the  poor  little  body  which  was  only  dust. 

"  Perhaps  we  oughtn't  to  go,"  she  said,  timor- 
ously. "  Perhaps  they  won't  like  us  to  see  him." 

But  she  was  taken.  Somebody  else  had  been 
and  nobody  had  seemed  to  dislike  their  going. 
The  Small  Person,  I  have  frequently  reflected, 
was  always  taken  to  places.  She  was  not  a  strong 
Small  Person,  except  in  unsuspected  powers  of 
keeping  quiet  under  some  strong  emotions,  and 
in  possessing  a  certain  silent  steadiness  of  pur- 
pose when  she  meant  to  do  a  thing.  Perhaps 
her  strength  was  and  always  has  been  that  she 
quite  unconsciously  looked  as  if  she  meant  noth- 
ing while  she  really  meant  a  great  deal.  But 
that  was  probably  far  less  a  moral  or  mental  qual- 
ity than  a  gift  amiably  bestowed  by  Nature  in  a 
lavish  moment.  The  leading  spirits  took  her  to 


The  Strange    Thing  165 

the  place  under  their  charge.  Afterward  she  did 
not  seem  to  remember  anything  about  the  house, 
even  its  entrance  or  stairway — anything  but  a 
certain  dull,  dreary  little  front  parlor  in  it.  This 
was  most  likely  because  she  remembered  the  lit- 
tle dismal  room  and  what  was  there  so  strangely 
well. 

It  was  such  a  dull,  unpicturesque  room,  small 
and  unadorned,  and  dreary  beyond  measure.  At 
least  so  it  seemed  to  the  Small  Person,  though 
she  saw  no  detail  of  it  but  a  stiff  horsehair-cov- 
ered sofa  against  a  wall.  On  this  sofa  lay  some- 
thing covered  with  a  white  sheet.  This  was  what 
they  had  come  to  see.  Somehow  the  room,  the 
sofa,  the  whole  atmosphere  of  the  colorless  dul- 
ness  seemed  like  the  little  unornamental  fellow 
himself,  with  his  lank  hair,  his  ill-fitting  clothes, 
and  his  mild,  small,  unattractive,  bluish  face.  The 
person  who  had  taken  charge  of  them  drew  the 
white  sheet  away,  and  the  Small  Person  saw  the 
Strange  Thing  for  the  first  time,  with  an  awful 
sense  of  desolateness  and  depression. 

Even  the  Strange  Thing  had  not  left  the  poor 
little  fellow  beautiful.  He  seemed  to  have  grown 
very  long  ;  he  was  clothed  in  an  awesome  gar- 
ment of  bluish  white  flannel,  with  ornamentation 
of  ugly  stamped  scalloped  edges ;  in  accordance 
with  some  belated  grewsome  fashion  he  had  on 
a  strange  muslin  night-cap,  whose  stiff  crimped 


1 66     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

frill  border  made  an  unlovely  setting  for  his  poor 
little  still  bluish  face.  It  looked  more  dusky  than 
ever  in  its  strange  blue  color,  and  his  lips  were 
almost  violet.  A  line  of  lifeless  gray  showed 
itself  under  the  not  entirely  closed  lids. 

The  Small  Person  stood  and  looked  down  at 
this  with  a  rather  awful  feeling.  She  did  not 
know  what  she  had  expected  to  see,  but  this 
made  her  heart  beat  with  dreary  throbs.  It  was 
not  that  she  was  exactly  frightened,  on  the  whole 
she  was  not  as  frightened  as  she  had  expected  to 
be  when  she  came  face  to  face  with  the  Strange 
Thing,  but  she  felt  an  indescribable  awed  dreari- 
ness. She  also  wondered  why  she  did  not  begin 
to  cry.  She  had  imagined  that  at  the  sight  of 
the  Strange  Thing  one  would  inevitably  begin  to 
cry.  She  wondered  if  it  was  because  she  had  no 
heart  that  she  did  not.  Ought  one  really  to  sob 
bitterly  at  the  sight  of  a  little  boy  one  had  not 
known  at  all  well,  and  of  whom  one  chiefly  re- 
membered that  he  had  heart  disease  and  blue 
lips  ? 

"  He  is  an  Angel,"  she  kept  insisting,  mentally. 


"  He  has  gone  to  Heaven.' 


The  girl  who  had  taken  her  to  the  house  whis- 
pered to  her,  telling  her  to  touch  him.  She  had 
touched  him  herself,  and  so  had  the  others.  This 
appeared  to  be  part  of  a  ceremony.  The  Small 
Person  shrank  very  much.  She  felt  that  it  would 


The  Strange    Thing 


167 


be  an  awful  thing  to  do.  And  yet  she  had  heard 
so  much  about  a  certain  strange  coldness — colder 
than  anything  else — not  the  same  thing  as  any 
other  coldness — as  "  cold  as  Death."  There  was 
a  fearsome  longing  to  know  what  it  was  like. 


'S 


And  if  one  touched  what  the  Strange  Thing  had 
left,  one  did  not  dream  about  it.  One  could  not 
bear  the  thought  of  dreaming  of  the  small  room, 
the  horsehair  sofa,  and  the  poor  little  unlovely 
object  with  the  frilled  muslin  cap  and  eyelids  not 
quite  closed. 


1 68     The   One  I  Knew  tlie  Best  of  All 

She  put  out  her  hand  and  touched  the  unsmil- 
ing cheek. 

"  As  cold  as  Death  ! '  It  was  not  as  cold  as 
she  had  imagined  it  would  be.  Not  as  cold  as  ice 
or  as  cold  as  snow — and  yet — and  yet — it  was  un- 
like anything  else — a  soft  chillness  which  some- 
how seemed  to  hold  no  possibility  of  its  ever 
being  warmed.  What  she  carried  away  from  the 
dreary  little  room  when  she  left  it  was  the  mem- 
ory of  that  soft  chillness  and  a  sort  of  wonder  at 
herself  because  she  had  really  seen  the  Strange 
Thing. 

"  Poor  little  Alfie,"  the  executive  child  said. 
"  I'm  very  sorry  for  him,  but  he's  better  off." 
The  general  opinion  expressed  was  that  every- 
body was  "  sorry  "  for  him.  It  would  have  been 
unfeeling  not  to  be  sorry.  There  was  also  the 
greatest  possible  stress  laid  on  the  fact  that  he 
had  gone  to  Heaven,  and  these  sentiments  were 
regarded  as  so  incontrovertibly  proper  that  it 
would  have  occurred  to  no  one  to  find  their  con- 
nection incompatible.  Curious  as  it  may  seem,  I 
do  not  remember  that  the  Small  Person  herself 
did.  An  unquestioning  acceptance  of  all  axioms 
was  the  feature  of  the  period,  and  she  was  so  full 
of  the  mystery  of  the  Strange  Thing  itself  that 
she  could  contemplate  nothing  less,  though  she 
knew  that  she  gained  nothing  by  contemplating 
that. 


The  Strange    Thing  169 

But   though    she   had    seen   it  and   so  had  the 

o 

others,  though  they  had  looked  down  at  its  rigid- 
ity, and  touched  its  coldness  with  their  warm 
hands,  though  it  had  come  into  their  very  midst 
-to  Alfie  Burns,  who  was  nobody  particular,  and 
who  had  played  and  clone  his  sums  wrong  just 
like  the  rest  of  them — they  knew  it  could  not 
come  to  any  of  themselves ;  they  did  not  say  so, 
of  course,  but  they  were  quite  secure  in  it,  and 
were  not  afraid  at  all. 

For  the  Small  Person,  perhaps,  it  was  well  that 
it  was  not  very  long  before  it  came  again.  I  do 
not  know  how  long.  But  the  second  time  it 
wore  another  face,  and  was  touching  but  not 
grewsome.  And  it  was  better  to  see  that  it  might 
be  so,  than  to  remember  always  the  grimness  of 
the  ugly,  dreary  room — better  for  anyone,  far, 
far  better  for  a  child  with  a  vivid  mind. 

In  the  school  there  was  a  department  for 
younger  children,  quite  little  ones,  who  learned 
their  alphabet  and  played  kindergarten  games. 
They  had  a  room  of  their  own  and  a  teacher  of 
their  own.  There  were  some  attractive  mites 
among1  them,  and  "  the  older  ones,"  as  the  others 

o 

called  themselves  with  a  feeling   of  great  matu- 
rity, had  favorites  and  pets. 

There  was  a  tiny  one  who  was  the  pet  of  all- 
such  a  pretty  pet  and  such  a  laughing  one  !     She 
was  three  years  old  and  had  golden-brown  eyes 


170     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

and  little  nut-brown  curls  on  her  small  round 
head.  She  was  a  merry  thing,  full  of  dimples, 
and  her  brown-gold  eyes  were  large  and  love- 
compelling,  and  had  long  curling  lashes.  The 
child  pet  of  a  school  full  of  girls  is  a  much  loved 
thing.  This  one  was  adored.  Her  lovers  never 
tired  of  praising  her  prettiness,  her  quaint  little 
movements,  her  eyelashes,  her  curls  and  eyes. 
She  was  a  little  lovely  one,  and  her  tiny  name 
was  Selina. 

"  Look  at  her ! '  everyone  would  exclaim  when 
a  Kindergarten  game  was  being  played.  "  Oh,  see 
how  pretty  she  is  when  she  puts  her  teenty  elbow 
on  her  knee  and  leans  her  cheek  on  her  hand  to 
show  how  the  laborer  rests.  She  keeps  opening 
her  eyes  and  laughing.  She  can't  keep  them 
shut." 

This  very  game  was  played  one  Friday  after- 
noon, and  she  was  at  her  very  prettiest  and 
quaintest.  Earlier  in  the  day,  it  was  remem- 
bered afterward,  she  had  been  a  little  dull  and 
had  not  seemed  quite  herself,  but  in  the  after- 
noon she  had  brilliant  rose-colored  cheeks,  and 
her  merry  eyes  were  like  stars. 

"  Isn't  she  a  sweetie  ?  '  said  the  girls.  "  Isn't 
she  a  little  rogue?  Look  at  her  peeping  under 
her  eyelashes." 

When  the  Small  Person  came  to  school  on 
Monday  morning  the  door  was  opened  for  her 


The  Strange    Thing  171 

by  one  of  the  elder  girls  of  the  family.  She  had 
a  curious  shocked  look  in  her  eyes. 

u  Has  anyone  told  you  ? '  she  exclaimed. 
"  Have  you  heard  about  it?' 

"  Heard  what  ? '  the  Small  Person  faltered, 
startled  by  her  expression. 

"  Little  Selina  is  dead  !     Pretty  little  Selina !  " 

And  so  the  Strange  Thing  came  again  ! 

This  time  the  difficulty  was  to  believe  it — to  feel 
that  it  could  be  true. 

"  Little  Selina ! '  the  Small  Person  gasped. 
"  She — she  cant  be  !  Who  told  you  ?  On  Fri- 
day she  was  playing  the  Haymaker  game  and  she 
kept  peeping — she  could  not  keep  her  eyes  shut 
— and  we  laughed  so  !  Selina  !  ' 

o 

"  It's  quite  true,"  was  the  answer.  "  She  was 
ill  then,  though  she  had  such  red  cheeks.  Janey 
said  she  hadn't  seemed  bright  in  the  morning. 
They  say  she  hadn't  been  quite  herself  for  a  day 
or  so.  She  died  at  six  this  morning,  and  they 
sent  word  by  a  servant.  She  was  crying,  poor 
girl !  " 

What  a  Strange  Thing  it  was  ! 

In  the  school-room  the  children  looked  at  each 
other  amazed.  They  were  amazed — that  was  it. 
Each  new  comer  uttered  the  same  exclamation, 
"  Selina?  "  and  then  "  Selina  !  '  As  if  it  were  too 
incredible.  They  kept  telling  each  other  how 
merry  she  had  been  when  she  played  the  Hay- 


172     The   One  I  Knezv  the  Best  of  All 

maker  game,  how  rosy  her  cheeks  had  looked, 
how  roguishly  she  had  laughed.  They  kept 
repeating  that  she  was  such  a  pretty  little  thing 
and  everybody  loved  her.  And  somehow  there 
was  a  tendency  even  in  the  common  ones  to 
look  bewildered  and  thoughtful,  and  exclaim,  in 
a  puzzled,  questioning  undertone,  "  Selina  ?  Se- 
tt H  a  !  " 

The  Small  Person  found  she  was  saying  it  to 
herself  all  through  the  day.  It  had  seemed 
extraordinary  that  Alfie  should  be  taken  away, 
even  though  they  had  all  known  about  the  heart 
disease.  It  had  been  extraordinary  because  the 
Strange  Thing  seemed  to  have  nothing  to  do 
with  such  people  as  themselves — to  be  only  pos- 
sible to  people  somehow  quite  remote  and  unlike 
them.  But  there  seemed  a  reason  why  Selina 
should  not  be  taken,  the  reason  of  herself,  her 
pretty,  buoyant,  dimpling,  vivid  self.  What  had 
the  awful  thing  to  do  with  that !  It  was  unnat- 
ural. 

"  Selina  ?     Selina  !  " 

I  think  it  was  the  velvet-eyed  little  Best  Friend 
and  her  younger  sister  who  went  with  the  Small 
Person  to  the  child's  home,  to  see  her,  as  they 
had  seen  Alfie.  It  was  the  first  time  they  had 
ever  been  to  the  house.  The  children  saw  very 
little  of  each  other  away  from  the  school-room, 
and  Selina  only  appeared  on  the  small  horizon 


The  Strange    Thing  173 

when  her  nurse  brought  her  to  the  front  door 
and  left  her  to  pursue  her  tiny  studies. 

Of  this  house,  also,  the  Small  Person  never 
remembered  anything-  afterward  but  one  room, 
which  has  remained  a  picture  hung  in  the  gallery 
of  life. 

It  was  not  a  large  room.  It  was  a  nursery  bed- 
room, perhaps,  though  there  was  no  bed  in  it, 
only  a  little  cot  standing  in  the  middle  of  it,  and 
prettily  draped  with  white. 

Everything  in  the  room  was  white,  covered 
with  pure  white,  hung  with  white,  adorned  with 
white  flowers — mostly  white  rosebuds — very  ten- 
der little  ones.  It  seemed  like  a  little  chapel  of 
snow,  where  one  felt  one  must  breathe  softly. 

And  under  the  snowy  draperies  of  the  small  cot, 
among  rosebuds  which  seemed  to  kiss  it  with  their 
petals,  there  was  another  little  white  thing  lying. 

Selina  ?     Sclina  ! 

Ah,  little  love !  how  pretty  and  innocent  and 
still  the  Strange  Thing  had  left  her.  It  could 
not  have  hurt  her.  She  was  not  changed,  only 
that  she  was  somehow  lovelier.  There  were 
rosebuds  in  her  hands,  and  on  her  pillow  ;  her 
eyelashes  looked  very  long  as  they  lay  upon  her 
cheek,  and  in  a  still,  strange  little  way  she  was 
smiling.  In  the  white  room,  among  the  white 
flowers,  looking  down  at  her  fair  child-sleep 
through  tears,  one  was  not  the  least  afraid. 


174    The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

The  Small  Person  was  vaguely  glad  of  some- 
thing, and  somehow  she  knew  that  she  was  not 
"  sorry  for  her."  She  looked,  and  looked,  and 


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looked  again,  with  tenderly  brooding  eyes.  She 
did  not  want  to  go  away.  If  the  Strange  Thing 
only  left  one  a  soft,  white  creature  in  a  white 
room,  among  flowers,  and  smiling  like  that,  at 
what  it  had  showed  one,  it  was  not  so  awful. 


The  Strange    Tiling  175 

What  a  pretty,  pretty  smile — as  if  she  was  keep- 
ing a  little  secret  to  herself. 

"  May  we  kiss  her?'  the  Small  Person  asked, 
in  a  low  voice,  timidly. 

"Yes,  dear,"  was  the  answer. 

And  she  bent  over  and  kissed  her  round  cheek 
where  the  dimples  used  to  play.  And  the  cold- 
ness was  only  the  soft  coldness  of  a  flower. 

And  afterward  they  went  away,  talking  to- 
gether in  low,  tender,  child  whispers.  And  they 
told  each  other  again  what  a  pretty  little  thing 
she  had  been,  and  that  everybody  had  loved  her. 
And  the  Small  Person  remembered  how  in  the 
game  she  had  made  everybody  laugh,  because 
she  could  not  keep  still,  and  could  not  keep  her 
eyes  closed.  But  now — now,  she  was  quite  still, 
and  she  could  keep  her  pretty  eyes  shut. 

And  this  had  been  done  by  the  Strange  Thing. 


CHAPTER  XL 

'•'•Mamma'    —and  the  First  One 

THE  chief  tone  of  her  world  was  given  to  it  by 
the  gentle  little  lady  who  was  her  mother — the 
most  kind  and  simple  English  lady — of  a  type  the 
most  ingenuous  and  mild.  What  the  Small  Per- 
son felt  most  clearly  was  that  "  Mamma"  was  so 
entirely  and  sweetly  this  gentle  and  kindly  lady. 
Of  course  it  had  not  been  necessary  to  formulate 
this,  even  in  thought,  but  it  was  an  existent  fact 
which  made  life  pleasant.  One  could  not  have 
borne  existence — even  as  a  Small  Person — if  one's 
"  Mamma  "had  not  been  a  lady.  There  were 
Mammas  who  were  not  quite  so  nice — who  wore 
more  ribbons  in  their  caps  and  who  could  be  seen 
at  a  greater  distance,  and  who  had  not  such  soft 
voices,  and  such  almost  timidly  kind  smiles  and 
words  for  everyone.  The  Small  Person  was  al- 
ways thankful  after  interviews  with  such  Mammas 
that  her  own  was  the  one  who  belonged  to  her, 
and  to  whom  she  belonged. 

It  was  so  interesting  to  hear  of  the  days  when 
she  had  been  a  little  girl  also. 

"  When  I  was  a  little  girl  and  we  lived  at  Patri- 


"Mamma" — and  the  First  One      177 

croft-  was  the  slender  link  which  formed  a 
chain  of  many  dear  little  stories  of  quite  another 
world. 

She  had  not  been  Romantic.  The  Small  Person 
had  a  vague  feeling  that  she  herself  might  have 
been  the  subject  of  memoirs  of  a  sweet  and  not 
awe-inspiring  kind.  "  Mamma  "  could  never  have 
been  denunciatory.  She  seemed  a  little  like  Ame- 
lia Sedley,  but  not  so  given  to  weeping  and  not  so 
silly.  There  were  two  little  water-color  pictures, 
which  hung  in  the  drawing-room.  They  were 
supposed  to  represent,  ideally,  Amy  Robsart  and 
Jeanie  Deans.  They  had  sweet  pink  faces  and 
brown  ringlets,  and  large,  gentle  blue  eyes.  They 
were  very  much  alike,  and  the  Small  Person  was 
very  fond  of  them  because  Mamma  had  one  day 
said  :  "  Poor  Papa  bought  them  before  we  were 
married  because  he  thought  they  were  like  me. 
1  used  to  wear  my  hair  like  the  picture  of  Jeanie 
Deans." 

To  the  Small  Person  this  surrounded  them  with 
a  halo.  The  vision  of  "  Poor  Papa  "  overcome  by 
youthful  ardor  before  he  was  married  to  Mamma, 
and  tenderly  buying  these  two  little  pictures  be- 
cause they  were  like  her,  and  had  ringlets,  like 
hers,  was  simply  delightful  to  her.  How  could 
she  help  loving  them  ? 

Was  Mamma  clever  ?  No,  I  think  not.  The 
Small  Person  never  asked  herself  the  question. 

12 


178     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 


That  would  have  been  most  sacrilegious  unlov- 
ingness.  And  why  should  one  have  thought  of 
asking:  more  of  her  than  that  she  should  be 

o 

"  Mamma."  One  would  not  ask  one's  self  if  an 
Angel  were  clever.  And,  also,  one  did  not  think 

of  wondering 
how    many 
years  she  had 
lived.     She 
was  just  the 
age  of  a  mam- 
ma.    Only  as 
long   as    she 
lived     her 
mind  was  like 
that  of  an  in- 
nocent, serious, 
young  girl --with 
a   sort   of   maidenly 


matronliness.    Not  be- 

/ 

ing  at  all  given  to  elo- 
quence or  continuous  con- 
versation of  any  sort,  it  was 
a  wonderful  thing  that  her 
mere  existence  near  one  meant  so  much — that  it 
soothed  headaches,  and  made  sore-throats  bear- 
able ;  that  it  smoothed  stormy  nursery  seas,  and 
removed  the  rankling  sting  of  wrong  and  injus- 
tice. One  could  have  confronted  any  trial,  sup- 


-and  the  First   One       179 

ported  by  the  presence  of  this  little,  gentle,  very 
ingenuous  and  unworldly  Mamma. 

She  was  a  sweetly  feminine  thing,  and  her  liter- 
ature had  been  as  feminine  as  herself.  The  Small 
Person  found  out  about  that.  She  had  read  "  im- 
proving "  works  when  she  was  a  young  lady.  She 
had  a  great  respect  for  Miss  Martineau  and  Mrs. 
Ellis  and  her  "  Daughters  of  England."  She  had 
read  poems  in  Keepsakes,  and  knew  all  the  beau- 
ties of  Dr.  Watts.  Mrs.  Barbauld  she  revered, 
and  a  certain  book  called  "  Anna  Lee,  the  Maiden, 
Wife,  and  Mother,"  she  admired  most  sweetly. 

"  But  you  ought  not  to  read  tales  so  much," 
she  used  to  say,  with  a  gently  heroic  sense  of  ma- 
ternal duty,  to  the  Small  Person.  "  You  ought 
to  read  something  Improving." 

"  What  is  Improving,  Mamma  ? '  the  Small 
Person  would  reply. 

Gentle  little  lady  Mamma!  I  am  afraid  she  was 
vague — though  the  Small  Person  did  not  realize 
that  it  was  vagueness  she  always  observed  in  her 
blue  eye  when  she  asked  this  question.  The  an- 
swer was  always  the  same : 

"  Oh  ! — history  and  things,  love.  History  is  al- 
ways improving." 

The  Small  Person  used  to  wonder  why  His- 
tory particularly.  It  was  never  suggested  that 
grammar,  geography,  and  arithmetic  were  stimu- 
lating to  the  mind — but  history  always.  And  she 


180     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

knew  all  "  Pinnock's  England  '  and  "  Pinnock's 
Rome  '  and  somebody  else's  "  Greece."  Could 
there  have  been  in  Mamma  herself  a  lurking 
fondness  for  the  Story  which  was  not  "  improv- 
ing "  ?  There  were  three  or  four  mentioned  at 
different  periods  which  she  seemed  to  remember 
interesting  details  of  with  remarkable  clearness. 
"The  Scottish  Chiefs,"  "The  Children  of  the 
Abbey,"  u  Fatherless  Fanny,"  "  The  Castle  of 
Otranto,"  and  "The  Mysteries  of  Udolpho." 
Certain  incidents  in  them  being  inadvertently 
described  to  the  Small  Person  so  inflamed  her 
imagination  that  the  most  burning  desire  of  her 
life  was  to  be  the  happy  possessor  of  these  rich 
treasures.  It  was  years  before  she  came  upon 
them,  one  by  one,  and  then  somehow  their  glory 
had  departed.  The  mysterious  secreted  relative 
wandering  about  the  cloister's  ruins  had  lost  her 
sorrowful  eerie  charm,  the  ghastly,  apparently 
murdered  victim,  concealed  by  the  heavy  curtain, 
had  no  impressiveness,  and  it  was  not  really  a 
shock  when  he  turned  out  to  be  only  wax.  Emily 
-the  beautiful  persecuted  Emily  in  "  Udolpho  ' 
-was  actually  tedious  in  her  persistent  habit  of 
"  giving  vent  to  her  feelings  in  the  following 
lines."  But  when  Mamma  told  bits  of  them  with 
a  certain  timidity  engendered  by  their  romantic 
lack  of  the  element  of  "  improvement,"  what 
thrillingly  suggestive  things  they  were  ! 


"  Mamma'    -and  the  First   One       181 

What  a  beautiful  thing  this  pure  and  gentle 
heart  was — quite  as  simple  as  the  heart  of  a  child, 
and  filled  with  sweetest,  lenient  kindness  to  all 
things  !  What  a  beautiful  thing  for  a  little  child 
to  grow  up  in  the  mild  sunshine  of  !  What  brill- 
iant strength  could  have  had  such  power — if  it 
had  not  had  its  sweetness  too  ?  How  did  one 
learn  from  it  that  to  be  unkindly  and  selfish  was 
not  only  base  but  somehow  vulgar  too — and  that 
the  people  who  were  not  born  in  the  "  back 
streets  '  naturally  avoided  these  things  as  they 
avoided  dropping  their  h's  and  speaking  the  dia- 
lect? 

Nobody  ever  said  "  Noblesse  oblige,"  nobody 
ever  said  anything  about  "  Noblesse  "  at  all,  and 
yet  one  knew  that  in  certain  quiet,  unpretentious 
houses  the  boys  and  girls  must  be  "  ladies  and 
gentlemen,"  and  to  be  so  one  must  feel  inadmissi- 
ble some  faults  it  was  by  no  means  difficult  to  fall 
into.  There  is,  after  all,  a  certain  quaint  dignity 
in  the  fixed  qualities  understood  by  some  English 
minds  in  the  words  "  lady  '  and  "  gentleman." 
The  words  themselves  have  been  vulgarized,  and 
cheapened,  and  covered  with  odd  gildings  and 
varnish,  and  have  been  made  to  mean  so  many 
objectionable  things,  that  it  has  seemed  better 
taste  to  let  them  drop  out  of  fashion — but  once 
their  meaning  in  simple,  gentle  minds  was  some- 
thing very  upright  and  fine.  They  were  used  in 


1 82     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

this  sense   in  the    clays  of   the  Small  Person — at 
least  she  believed  them  to  mean  nothing  less. 

In  searching  the  past  there  is  no  memory  of 
any  lecture  delivered  by  "  Mamma  "  on  the  sub- 
ject of  good  morals,  good  manners,  and  good 
taste.  Anything  from  "  Mamma '  in  the  nature 
of  a  harangue  would  have  seemed  incongruous. 
Perhaps  it  was  because  through  all  the  years  she 
never  was  unkind  or  ungenerous,  because  she  was 
good  to  everything — even  to  disreputable  and  ob- 
jectionable stray  cats  and  lost  dogs  brought  in- 
with  bursts  of  enthusiasm — for  refuge ;  because 
she  never  uttered  a  vulgarly  sharp  or  spiteful, 
envious  word,  or  harbored  an  uncharitable 
thought — perhaps  it  was  because  of  these  things 
that  one  grew  up  knowing  that  her  unspoken 
creed  would  be  : 

"  Be  kind,  my  dear.  Try  not  to  be  thoughtless 
of  other  people.  Be  very  respectful  to  people 
who  are  old,  and  be  polite  to  servants  and  good 
to  people  who  are  poor.  Never  be  rude  or  vul- 
gar. Remember  to  be  always  a  little  lad}^." 

It  was  all  so  simple  and  so  quite  within  the 
bounds  of  what  one  could  do.  And,  all  summed 
up  and  weighed,  the  key-note  of  it  was  but  one 
thing:  "  Be  kind,  my  dear — be  kind." 

There  was  an  innocent,  all-embracing  prayer, 
which  the  entire  Nursery  said  unfailingly  ever}7 
night  and  morning,  through  all  its  childhood- 


"Mamma*    -and  the  First  One       183 

some  of  them,  perhaps,  far  beyond  childhood,  be- 
cause of  the  tender  homely  memories  it  brought 
back.  One  of  them,  at  least,  in  after  years,  when 
the  world  had  grown  to  wider  boundaries  and 
faith  was  a  less  easy  thing,  found  a  strange,  sad 
pleasure  in  saying  it  because  its  meaning  was  so 
full  of  trustingness,  and  so  sweet. 

Surely  it  was  "  Mamma '  who  was  responsible 
for  it — "  Mamma'"  who  had  a  faith  so  perfect  and 
simple,  and  who,  in  asking  for  good,  could  have 
left  out  in  her  praying  nothing,  however  poor 
and  small. 

As  she  grew  to  riper  years  the  Small  Person 
often  pondered  on  it  and  found  it  touching,  in  its 
all-embracingness. 

It  began  with  the  Lord's  Prayer — the  first 
words  of  this  being  said  devoutly  as,  "  Our 
Father,  'chart  in  Heaven,"  and  the  more  sloivly  one 
said  it  all,  the  more  devout  one  was  supposed  to 
be.  The  child  who  "  gabbled '  her  prayers  was 
"  a  wicked  thing."  It  was  very  awful,  when  one 
was  tired  or  preoccupied,  to  find  out  that  one  was 
"  gabbling."  Discovering  this,  one  went  back  and 
began  again,  with  exceeding  deliberation. 

But  it  was  the  little  prayer  which  came  after 
this  which  so  took  in  all  the  world — leaving  out 
none — in  its  blessing  : 

"  God  bless  Papa  and  Mamma,"  it  began,  lov- 
ingly, "  and  Grandpapas  and  Grandmammas  ' 


184     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

though  when  the  Small  Person  first  remembered 
it  the  Grandpapas  were  gone,  and  one  could  only 
say,  "  and  Grandmammas,"  because  the  Grand- 
papas had  "  gone  to  Heaven,"  and  so  needed  no 
praying  for,  because  in  Heaven  everybody  was 
happy  and  God  took  care  of  them  without  being 
asked  every  night  and  morning  by  the  wearers  of 
the  little  white  night-gowns,  by  the  little  white 
beds,  in  the  Nursery.  "  God  bless  my  Brothers 
and  Sisters,"  it  went  on,  lovingly  again,  "  and 
my  Uncles  and  Aunts  and  Cousins."  And  then, 
that  none  might  escape  and  be  forgotten,  "  Pray 
God  bless  all  my  Relations  and  Friends,"  and 
then,  in  an  outburst  of  sympathy,  "  Pray  God, 
bless  Everybody."  And  modestly,  at  the  end- 
and  with  the  feeling  that  it  was  really  a  great 
deal  to  ask — "  And  make  Me  a  Good  Child — for 
Jesus  Christ's  Sake.  Amen." 

One  felt,  with   all  one's  little  heart,  that  this 
could  be  only  done  "  For  Jesus  Christ's  Sake ' 
because  one  knew  how  far  one  was  removed  from 
the   little   girl  who  died  of  scarlet  fever  in  the 
Memoirs. 

And  then  one  finished  with  three  dear  little 
verses  which  seemed  to  provide  for  all  in  one's 
child-life — and  which  remembered  one's  friends 
again,  and  took  one  even  to  the  gates  of  Paradise. 

In  Nursery  parlance  it  was  always  spoken  of  as 
"  Jesus  tender." 


"Mamma*    -and  the  First   One       185 

"  Did  you  say  your  'Jesus  tender  '  ?  "  was  some- 
times sternly  demanded  by  one  little  white  Night- 
gown of  another.  "  You  were  such  a  little  bit  of 

o 

a  time   kneeling  down,  if  you  said  it   you   must 
have  gabbled." 
It  was  this  : 

"  Jesus,  tender  Shepherd,  hear  me, 
Bless  Thy  little  lamb  to-night ; 
Through  the  darkness  be  Thou  near  me, 
Keep  me  safe  till  morning  light." 

That  seemed  to  make  everything  so  safe  when 
the  gas  was  turned  down. 

"  Through  the  Darkness  be  Thou  near  me  " — 

the  strange,  black  Dark,  when  anything  might 
come  out  of  corners,  or  from  under  the  bed,  or 
down  the  chimney,  and  if  one  heard  a  sound,  one 
could  only  huddle  one's  head  under  the  clothes 
and  lie  listening  with  beating  heart.  But  if 
"  Jesus  tender '  was  there,  and  would  keep  one 
safe  till  morning  light,  one  need  not  be  really 
afraid  of  anything.  And  then  came  the  little 
thankful  part : 

"  Through  this  day  Thy  hand  hath  led  me, 

And  I  thank  Thee  for  Thy  care. 
Thou  hast  warmed  and  clothed  and  fed  me, 
Listen  to  my  evening  prayer." 


1 86     The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

And  then  the  last,  where  the  poor  little  sins  were 
asked  mercy  for,  and  the  friends  were  embraced 
again,  and  one  was  left  happy — taken   care  of- 
dwelling  in  Paradise  with  the  Tender  one  : 

"  Let  my  sins  be  all  forgiven, 

Bless  the  friends  I  love  so  well, 
Take  me,  when  I  die,  to  Heaven, 
Happy  there  with  Thee  to  dwell. 
For  Jesus  Christ's  sake.     Amen." 

It  was  very  sweet  and  very  trusting — full  of  be- 
lief, and  full  of  love  and  kind  faith  in  and  for  all 
the  world.  And  whatever  of  faith  might  fade  in 
the  glare  of  maturity,  which  made  all  things  too 
real  or  too  vague,  to  say  simply  every  night  and 
morning  through  a  whole  childhood,  words  as 
confiding  and  as  kind  must  be  a  good  begin- 
ning for  an  innocent  life — for  any  life,  however 
spent. 

The  First  One — a  development  of  that  notable 
seventh  year — was  written  one  Sunday  evening 
in  Summer,  when  it  was  clear  twilight,  and  the 
church  bells  were  ringing.  She  sat  at  the  Sitting 
Room  Table  which  for  the  time  was  merely  a 
table  made  to  rest  things  upon.  She  was  fond  of 
the  act  of  scribbling,  and  frequently  had  filled 
pages  in  blank  books  with  lines  of  angular  let- 
ter m's  joined  together.  The  doing  it  gave  her 
the  feeling  of  writing  with  rapidity  and  ease 


"Mamma'    -and  the  First  One       187 

as  older  people  did.  There  was  something  in 
the  free  movement  of  the  flying  pen  which 
she  liked  extremely.  The  long  summer  twilight 
of  these  Sunday  evenings  was  always  emotion- 
ally impressive  to  her.  She  did  not  know  why, 
but  that  they  seemed  so  quiet,  and  the  house 
was  so  still,  and  one  did  not  play  with  the  Doll 
or  run  about.  She  had  never  been  forbidden 
secular  amusement,  or  talked  to  rigidly,  but  some- 
how there  were  certain  things  one  felt  it  was  not 
exactly  proper  to  do  on  Sunday. 

Sunday,  in  fact,  was  rather  a  nice  day.  After 
breakfast  one  was  dressed  with  such  care  for 
church.  The  Small  Person  and  her  two  sisters, 
exceedingly  fresh  as  to  frocks  and  hats,  and  ex- 
ceedingly glossy  as  to  curls,  walked  to  church 
Avith  Mamma  and  the  Governess  and  the  two 
brothers,  whose  Eton  collars  presented  their  most 
unimpeachable  spotlessness. 

The  sermon  was  frequently  rather  long,  but 
one  did  one's  best  by  it  in  the  way  of  endeavor- 
ing to  understand  what  it  was  about.  The  Small 
Person  was  dissatisfied  with  her  character  be- 
cause she  was  conscious  that  her  mind  frequently 
wandered,  and  that  she  found  herself  imagining 
agreeable  scenes  of  a  fictitious  nature.  She  also 
found  that  when  she  checked  these  sinful  mun- 
dane fancyings  and  forced  herself  to  strictly  fol- 
low the  Reverend  James  Jones,  she  was  guilty 


1 88     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

of  impatient  criticism,  entirely  unbecoming  a  lit- 
tle girl.  The  literary  ideal  of  a  perfect  little  girl 
in  those  clays — a  spotless  little  girl,  who,  being 
snatched  away  in  her  youth  by  scarlet  fever, 
would  create  quite  a  commotion  in  Heaven  by 
the  rectitude  of  her  conduct — was  the  painful 
young  person  who  had  memoirs  written  about 
her,  relating  the  details  of  her  sufferings  and  the 
Example  she  had  been  to  every  one  about  her- 
particularly  to  all  other  children  who  were  not  of 
the  moral  elite  as  it  were.  The  Small  Person  had 
extremely  high  standards.  There  was  nothing  she 
would  have  been  so  thankful  for  as  to  find  that 
she  might  attain  being  an  Example — and  suitable 
for  memoirs — but  she  had  an  humble,  sorrowing 
consciousness  that  such  aspirations  were  in  vain. 
This  was  evident  on  the  face  of  it.  The  little 
girls  in  memoirs  could  not  have  been  guilty  oi 
the  vileness  of  "  not  listening  to  the  sermon." 
They  heard  every  word  of  it,  and  preached  it 
over  again  to  their  companions  on  the  way  home, 
by  way  of  inspiring  them  to  religious  enthu- 
siasm. They  never  thought  of  anything  but  the 
preacher  while  they  were  in  church,  and  they 
never  read  anything  but  the  Bible,  and  were  in 
the  kindly  habit  of  repeating  chapters  of  it  aloud 
to  people  left  alone  with  them.  They  always 
knew  a  text  to  say  when  anyone  did  anything 
wrong,  and  it  always  converted  the  erring  one 


II 


Mamma'    -and  the  First  One       189 


upon  the  spot.  "  Thou  shalt  not  steal,"  they  said 
solemnly,  when  a  boy  was  going  to  steal  an  ap- 
ple, and  he  never  thought  of  such  a  thing  again. 
"  Thou,  God,  seest  me,"  they  said  when  Tommy 
had  taken  a  lump  of  sugar,  and  was  revelling  in 
the  crime,  and  he  immediately  put  it  back  into 
the  bowl — probably  very  much  the  worse  for  wear 
-but  he  never  looked  at  the  sugar-bowl  again  so 
long  as  he  lived. 

The  Small  Person  felt  she  could  not  accom- 
plish these  things — that  there  was  a  fatal  earthly 
flaw  in  her  nature.  Perhaps  it  was  because  she 
was  Romantic,  and  no  memoir  had  ever  been 
written  about  a  little  girl  who  was  Romantic. 
Whether  it  preserved  them  against  scarlet  fever 
or  asrainst  the  memoir  she  did  not  ask.  But 

o 

sometimes  she  had  a  sad  lurking  fear  that  if  a 
girl  out  of  a  memoir  had  heard  her  dramatic 
performances  with  the  Doll  she  would  have  said 
to  her : 

"  That  is  not  a  bark.  It  is  only  an  Arm  Chair. 
You  are  not  playing  on  a  lute  made  of  silver. 
You  are  only  tooting  on  a  tin  whistle  Avhich  cost 
a  penny.  You  are  not  a  gentleman.  You  are 
a  little  girl.  And  you  are  saying  what  is  not 
true.  These  are  all  lies — and  liars  go  to  Hell." 

It  made  her  feel  inclined  to  burst  into  tears 
when  she  thought  of  it — so  she  thought  of  it  as 
little  as  possible.  This  may  have  indicated  a 


The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

shifty  irresponsibility  of  nature  or  a  philosophic 
discretion.  She  could  not  live  without  the  Doll. 
She  felt  it  sad  that  she  was  not  made  to  be  an  Ex- 
ample, but  she  tried  to  be  as  unobjectionable  as 
was  compatible  with  her  inferiority  and  lack  of 
fine  qualities. 

And,  somehow,  she  liked  Sunday.  Having 
had  another  Mamma  she  might  have  disliked  it 
greatly,  but  as  it  existed  in  her  life,  it  had  rather 
the  air  of  a  kind  of  peaceful  festival.  She  her- 
self was  in  those  days  too  unconscious  to  realize 
that  it  combined  with  its  spiritual  calm  certain 
mild  earthly  pleasures  which  made  an  excellent 
foundation  for  its  charm.  One  did  not  go  to 
school ;  there  were  no  lessons  to  learn ;  the  chaos 
of  the  Nursery  was  reduced  to  order ;  the  whole 
house  looked  nice  and  quiet ;  one  was  so  special- 
ly spotless  in  one's  best  frock ;  there  was  always 
such  a  nice  pudding  for  dinner  (never  rice,  or 
bread-pudding,  but  something  with  an  aspect 
of  novelty).  For  a  little  while  after  dinner  one 
remained  in  the  drawing-room,  and  sometimes 
Mamma — who  belonged  to  the  generation  when 
"  the  figure  '  was  not  a  matter  treated  lightly, 
would  surest  that  the  Small  Person  and  her  two 

o  o 

sisters  should  lie  quite  flat  upon  their  backs,  upon 

the  hearth-rug,  "for  fifteen  minutes  by  the  clock." 

"  It  is  very  good  for   your  backs,   my   dears," 

she  would  say.      "  It  makes  them  straight.     It  is 


"  Mamma'    -and  the  First-   One       191 

very  important  that  a  young  lady  should  hold 
herself  well.  When  we  were  girls — your  aunt 
Emma  and  I — back-boards  were  used." 

The  Small  Person  quite  delighted  in  this  cere- 
mony. It  was  so  nice  to  stretch  one's  plump 
body  on  the  soft  rug — with  the  sense  of  its  being 
rather  a  joke— and  hear  about  the  time  when 
people  used  back-boards.  It  appeared  that  there 
had  been  school-mistresses — genteel,  extremely 
correct  ladies  who  kept  boarding-schools — who 
had  been  most  rigorous  in  insisting  on  the  use 
of  the  back-board  by  their  pupils.  There  were 
anecdotes  of  girls  who  would  "  poke  their  chins 
forward,"  and  so  were  constrained  to  wear  a 
species  of  collar.  There  was  one  collar  indeed, 
celebrated  for  certain  sharp-pointed  things  under 
the  chin,  which  briskly  reminded  the  young 
lady  when  she  "  poked."  The  knowledge  that 
scholastic  and  maternal  method  had  improved 
since  those  days,  and  that  one  would  never  be 
called  upon  to  use  back-boards  or  instruments 
suggestive  of  the  Inquisition,  was  agreeable,  and 
added  charm  to  lying  on  the  rug  and  turning 
one's  eyes  to  the  ormolu  clock  on  the  mantel 
every  now  and  then,  to  see  if  the  three  five  min- 
utes were  gone. 

After  that  one  went  for  a  decorous  saunter 
round  the  Square,  where  one  always  encountered 
the  Best  Friend  and  her  sisters,  and  perhaps 


1 92     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

other  little  girls,  all  in  best  frocks  and  best  hats, 
and  inclined  to  agreeable  conversation. 

About  four  one  returned  to  the  drawing-room, 
and  the  event  of  the  day  took  place.  Everyone 
took  a  chair,  and  being  given  an  orange,  disposed 
of  it  at  leisure  and  with  great  but  joyful  decorum, 
while  Mamma  or  the  Governess  read  aloud, 

"  Where  did  we  leave  off  last  Sunday  ? '  the 
reader  would  ask,  turning  over  the  leaves. 

The  Small  Person  always  knew.  She  revelled 
in  these  Sunday  afternoons.  During  the  rapture 
of  their  passing  she  heard  "  Ministering  Chil- 
dren," "  The  Channings,"  "  Mrs.  Halliburton's 
Troubles,"  "  Letters  from  Palmyra,"  and  "  Letters 
from  Rome,"  an  enthralling  book  called  "  Naomi," 
which  depicted  dramatically  the  siege  of  Jerusa- 
lem, and  divers  other  "  Sunday  books." 

Yes,  Sunday  was  a  day  quite  set  apart,  and  was 
really  very  pleasant  to  think  of.  A  far  more  brill- 
iant woman  than  "  Mamma"  might  have  made  it 
infinitely  less  an  agreeable  and  bright  memory. 
Hers  was  the  brilliance  of  a  sweet  and  tender 
heart  which  loved  too  kindly  to  give  one  dreary 
hour. 

None  of  the  younger  ones  went  to  church  in 
the  evening. 

"  I  am  afraid  you  might  be  sleepy,"  said 
Mamma,  which  was  an  instance  of  most  discreet 
forethought. 


11  Mamma'    -and  the  First  One       193 

So  not  going  to  church,  the  Small  Person  had 
her  evening  hours  in  the  quiet  house,  and  liked 
them  greatly. 

The  form  and  merits  of  the  First  One  have 
not  remained  a  memory,  but  the  emotion  which 
created  it  is  a  memory  very  distinct  indeed.  As 
for  the  creation  itself,  it  cannot  have  been  of  any 
consequence  but  that  it  was  the  First  One. 

I  see  the  Sitting  Room  with  its  look  of  Sunday 
neatness,  the  Green  Arm  Chair  wearing  a  decor- 
ous air  of  never  having  braved  the  stormy  billows, 
the  table  with  its  cloth  quite  straight  upon  it, 
and  the  Small  Person  sitting  by  it  with  pen  and 
ink  and  an  old  exercise-book  before  her,  the  win- 
dow open  behind  her. 

The  pen  and  ink  and  book  were  to  scribble 
with,  because  it  amused  her  to  scribble.  But  all 
was  so  quiet  around  her,  and  the  sound  of  the 
church-bells  coming  through  the  open  windows 
was  such  a  peaceful  thing,  that  she  sat  leaning  on 
the  table,  her  cheek  on  her  hand,  listening  to  it. 
What  is  there  that  is  so  full  of  emotional  sugges- 
tion in  the  sound  of  bells  ringing  in  the  summer 
twilight  ?  The  Small  Person  did  not  know  at  all. 
But  she  felt  very  still  and  happy,  and  as  if  she 
wanted  to  say  or  do  something  new,  which  would 
somehow  be  an  expression  of  feeling  and  good- 
ness, and — and — she  did  not  know  at  all  what  else. 

She  turned  her  face  over  her  shoulder,  to  look 
13 


194     The   One  I  Knew  tJie  Best  of  All 

at  the  sky,  which  showed  over  the  tops  of  the 
houses  in  the  Back  Street.  It  wras  very  beautiful 
that  evening — very  blue,  and  dappled  with  filmy 
white  clouds.  It  had  a  Sunday  evening  look. 

After  looking  at  it,  she  turned  slowly  to  the 
exercise-book  again — not  with  any  particular  in- 
tention, but  reminded  by  the  pen  in  her  hand 
of  the  pleasantness  of  scribbling.  A  delightful, 
queer,  and  tremendously  bold  idea  came  to  her. 
It  was  so  daring  that  she  smiled  a  little. 

"  I  wonder  if  I  could  write — a  piece  of  poetry," 
she  said.  "  I  believe — I'll  try." 

No  one  need  ever  know  that  she  had  attempt- 
ed anything  so  audacious,  and  she  could  have  the 
fun  of  trying.  There  was  no  one  in  the  room 
but  the  Green  Arm  Chair,  and  it  could  not  be- 
tray her — besides  the  fact  that  it  would  not  if 
it  could.  It  was  such  a  nice  old  thing.  It  had  a 
way  at  times  of  seeming  to  have  forgotten  the 
adventures  of  its  wild  and  rather  rackety  past, 
and  of  seeming  to  exist  only  to  hold  out  its  arms 
benignly  to  receive  Grandmammas.  As  to  Pi- 
rates on  the  Hiffh  Seas,  it  seemed  never  to  have 

o 

even  heard  of  one. 

A  piece  of  poetry  was  a  thing  with  short  lines, 
and  at  the  end  of  them  were  words  which  sound- 
ed alike — which  rhymed. 

"  Down  on  a  green  and  shady  bed 
A  modest  violet  grew, 


"Mamma'    -and  the  First   One       195 

Its  stalk  was  bent,  it  hung  its  head 
As  if  to  hide  from  view." 

"  '  Charge,  Chester,  charge  !  on,  Stanley,  on  ! ' 
Were  the  last  words  of  Marmion." 

"  Believe  me,  if  all  those  endearing  young  charms 

Which  I  gaze  on  so  fondly  to-day 
Were  to  fleet  by  to-morrow  and  fade  in  these  arms 
Like  fairy  dreams  gone  to  decay." 

"  How  doth  the  little  busy  bee 

Improve  each  shining  hour  ; 
It  gathers  honey  all  the  day, 
From  every  opening  flower." 

These  were  pieces  of  poetry,  and  they  gave  one 
something  to  build  on.  "  Bed,  Head,  Led,  Shed 
-Charms,  Arms,  Farms,  Carms."  No,  Carms 
was  not  a  word.  Oh,  "  Calms  ! '  And  Calms 
was  a  real  word.  That  seemed  to  open  up  vistas. 
It  became  quite  exciting  -  -  like  a  sort  of  game. 
There  were  words  spelled  differently  from  each 
other,  it  seemed,  which  would  rhyme.  And  the 
church-bells  went  on  ringing  with  that  soft  sound 
which  seemed  to  make  one  think  things. 

What  should  the  piece  of  poetry  be  about? 
How  pretty  that  ringing  was  !  Oh,  suppose  one 
tried  to  write  a  piece  of  poetry  about  the  bells  ! 
Bells,  Shells,  Tells,  Sells — Ring,  Sing,  Fling,  Wing. 

And  she  wrote  a  "  piece  of  poetry  '  about  the 
church-bells,  and  of  it  there  is  no  record  what- 
ever, but  that  it  was  the  First  One.  How  long  it 


196     The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

was  before  she  wrote  another  I  am  not  at  all  sure. 
She  did  not  seem  to  rush  madly  on  in  her  down- 
ward career. 

Time  could  not  possibly  be  calculated  in  those 
days.  A  month  seemed  to  hold  a  Future.  Any- 
thing might  occur  in  the  way  of  rapture  du ring- 
six  weeks'  holiday.  If  one  heard  that  a  thing 
would  happen  "  Next  Year,"  one  could  not  feel 
actual  interest  in  it.  "  Next  century '  would  not 
have  made  it  much  less  vague. 

But  I  think  she  was  nine  or  ten  years  old  when, 
on  another  Sunday  evening,  she  broke  forth 
again.  She  had  read  a  great  deal  of  the  "  Secre- 
taire '  by  that  time,  and  had  found  that  in  Maga- 
zines published  for  grown-up  people  there  were 
many  things  to  read.  She  had  discovered  that 
Punch  was  a  source  of  delight,  and  a  person  of 
the  name  of  Charles  Dickens  had  attracted  her 
attention.  Perhaps  the  fact  that  she  had  made 
his  acquaintance,  and  that  she  had  discovered 
Punch  had  given  a  new  flavor  to  her  romanticisms. 
But  to  the  last  the  adventures  of  the  Doll  were 
never  clouded  in  their  seriousness  by  any  sense 
of  humor.  Her  charm  would  have  been  lost  if 
one  could  have  treated  her  lightly,  or  made  fun 
of  her.  She  was  Reality. 

The  Sunday  evening  when  she  wrote  her  next 
piece  of  poetry  was  a  dark  and  stormy  one.  It 
was  a  winter  evening.  The  rain  was  falling  and 


"Mamma'    -and  the  First   One       197 

the  wind  howling  outside.  Her  sisters  were  in 
bed,  everyone  else  but  one  servant  at  church,  and 
she  was  sitting  in  the  drawing-room. 

She  had  pen  and  ink  before  her  again,  without 
any  particular  reason,  except  that  she  wanted 
something  to  do,  and  again  it  was  the  sounds  out- 
side which  gave  her  her  impetus.  There  were  no 
church-bells.  They  had  stopped  ringing  long 
before,  and  the  wintry  storm  had  begun  after 
everyone  must  have  been  safely  in  church.  It 
was  the  sound  of  the  wind  which  moved  her  this 
time.  It  sounded  all  the  more  weird,  as  it  rushed 
wailing  round  the  houses,  because  she  was  quite 
alone.  Sometimes  it  seemed  to  exhaust  itself  in 
sounds  like  mournful  cries  heard  very  far  off. 
That  particular  sound  had  always  affected  her 
very  much.  When  she  had  been  a  little  child 
lying  awake  in  the  Nursery  bedroom  she  had 
been  heart-broken  by  a  fancy  of  a  baby  lost  in  the 
darkness  of  the  night  and  storm,  and  wandering 
alone,  crying,  crying  for  someone  to  find  it. 

This  Sunday  night  it  made  her  melancholy. 
Even  the  cheerful  sounds  of  the  bright  fire  of 
blazing  coal  were  not  enough  to  overpower  the 
feeling.  And  she  felt  so  alone  that  she  began  to 
wish  "  Mamma"  and  the  Governess  would  come 
home  from  church,  and  wondered  how  they 
would  get  through  the  rain.  It  seemed  lonely 
when  the  wind  sounded  like  that. 


198     77/6'   One  I  Knew  t/ie  Best  of  All 

And  suddenly,  as  a  means  of  distracting  her- 
self, she  began  to  write  another  "  piece  of  poetry." 

It  began  by  being  a  very  harrowing  thing. 
The  immortal  whole  was  never  seen  by  her  after 
that  night,  but  the  flavor  of  the  first  verse  was  so 
fine  that  it  would  not  be  easy  to  forget  it.  The 
"  Secretaire  "  had  given  her  an  acquaintance  with 
more  than  one  darkling  poem,  recording  and  im- 
mortalizing the  sentiments  of  lofty-minded  per- 
sons who  were  the  victims  of  accursed  fate  and 
who  in  the  depths  of  their  woe  were  capable  of 
devoting  many  verses  to  describing  their  exalted 
scorn  of  things  in  general- -particularly  suns 
which  would  unfeelingly  persist  in  shining,  stars 
that  continued  heartlessly  to  remain  bright,  and 
skies  whose  inconsiderate  blueness  could  not  be 
too  scathingly  condemned.  And  the  very  lofti- 
ness of  their  mental  altitude  was  the  cause  of 
their  being  isolated  from  the  "  hollow  world." 
They  were  always  "  alone."  Alone.  That  was  a 
good  idea.  The  piece  of  poetry  should  be  called 
"Alone."  And  the  wind  should  be  heard  in  it. 
How  it  wailed  at  that  particular  moment.  And 
this  was  the  soul-stirring  result : 

ALONE. 

Alone — alone  !     The  wind  shrieks  "  Alone  !  " 

And  mocks  my  lonely  sorrow, 
"  Alone — alone  !  "  the  trees  seem  to  moan, 

"  For  thee  there's  no  bright  to-morrow." 


"Mamma'    -and  the  First   One       199 

There  were  no  trees — but  that  was  immaterial. 
And  there  was  no  sorrow — but  that  also  was  of 
nc  consequence  whatever.  There  was,  however, 
a  touch  of  unconscious  realism  in  the  suggestion 
of  the  to-morrow  not  wearing  a  cheerful  aspect. 
The  nex\t  day  was  Monday,  and  it  would  be 
necessary  to  go  to  school  again,  which  was  a 
prospect  never  holding  forth  inducements  of  a 
glittering  nature.  She  was  not  warmly  attached 
to  school. 

But  the  first  verse  really  impressed  her.  Up 
to  that  time,  I  remember,  she  had  never  been  im- 
pressed by  anything  she  had  done.  The  First 
One  had  not  impressed  her  at  all.  She  had  only 
found  it  very  absorbing  to  write  it.  But  the  tone 
of  this  struck  her.  It  was  the  tone.  It  seemed  so 
elevated — so  grown-up — so  like  something  out  of 
the  "  Secretaire."  It  suggested  Lord  Byron.  It 
seemed  to  begin  a  little  like  some  of  those  things 
he  had  written  about  ladies — intimating  that  if  he 
was  not  very  careful  indeed  they  would  fall  hope- 
lessly in  love  with  him,  which  might  lead  to  most 
disastrous  results,  but  that,  being  the  noble  creat- 
ure he  was,  he  would  be  careful  and  "spare' 
tb^m — which  the  Small  Person  always  thought 
extremely  nice  of  him,  and  so  beautiful  when  ex- 
pressed in  poetry.  But  she  had  not  come  to  the 
lady  in  her  poetry.  In  fact,  she  had  not  thought 
of  her  at  all,  which  was  quite  remiss,  as  she  had 


2OO    The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 
imagined  the  sufferer  whom  the  wind  shrieked  at 

o 

to  be  a  gentleman.  Perhaps  such  had  been  the 
feelingfs  of  Ouentinravenswoodmaltravers  when 

O  fZt 

the  eldest  Miss  Grantham's  papa  had  disapproved 
of  him.  Gentlemen  in  that  situation,  in  the 
"  Secretaire,"  always  felt  that  trees  and  things 
were  taunting  them.  But  it  was  cheering  to  re- 
flect that  he  had  had  a  <4  bright  to-morrow  "  on  the 
occasion  when  he  drove  home  from  church  with 
the  eldest  Miss  Grantham's  head  on  his  shoulder. 

Oh,  it  really  was  quite  a  beautiful  piece  of 
poetry — at  least  the  beginning  of  it  was.  And  she 
sat  and  gazed  at  it  respectfully. 

I  have  wondered  since  then  if  one  has  not  rea- 
son to  congratulate  her  on  the  thing  which  hap- 
pened next,  and  on  the  result  of  it.  Perhaps 
Punch  and  the  witticisms  in  the  grown-up  maga- 
zines, and  perhaps  the  tone  of  thought  of  the  gen- 
tleman of  the  name  of  Dickens  were  her  salva- 
tion. If  it  had  been  possible  for  her  to  Avrite  a 
second  verse  as  harrowing  as  the  first  and  to 
complete  her  piece  of  poetry  with  the  same  senti- 
ments carried  to  the  bitter  end,  this  being  re- 
peated through  her  ripening  years  and  giving 
tone  to  them,  it  seems  not  impossible  that  the 
effect  upon  her  cha.racter  might  have  been  a  little 
lowering,  or  at  least  not  of  the  most  bracing  nat- 
ure. 

But  this  was  what  happened.    Though  a  wildly 


" Mamma'    -and  the  First   One       201 

romantic,  she  was  a  healthy  and  cheerful-minded 
Small  Person,  and  intense  as  was  her  reverence 
for  this  first  verse  she  found  she  could  not  possibly 
write  another.  She  tried  and  tried  in  vain.  She 
frowned  gloomily,  and  listened  to  the  wind  howl- 
ing. She  thought  of  the  "  Corsair,"  and  the  ladies 
Lord  Byron  had  "  spared."  She  strove  to  depict 
to  herself  the  agonies  of  Quentinravenswoodmal- 
travers  before  Miss  Grantham's  papa  relented. 
But  it  was  no  use.  She  became  more  and  more 
cheerful,  and  at  last  found  herself  giving  it  up 
with  something  like  a  giggle,  because  it  suddenly 
struck  her  as  rather  funny  that  she  was  sitting 
there  trying  so  hard  to  "  think  of  something  sor- 
rowful." 

And  it  occurred  to  her  that  she  would  try  to 
make  it  into  something  amusing. 

It  is  quite  possible  that  unconscious  cerebra- 
tion connected  with  some  humorous  poems  in 
Punch,  or  the  grown-up  magazines,  guided  her. 
She  wrote  the  rest  of  it — and  there  were  a  num- 
ber of  verses — quite  rapidly,  and  with  great  en- 
joyment. She  laughed  a  great  deal  as  she  was 
doing  it.  It  was  quite  a  primitive  and  aged  idea 
she  used,  but  it  seemed  intensely  amusing  to  her. 
The  gentleman  who  had  begun  by  being  mocked 
and  shrieked  at  by  the  winds  and  trees  developed 
into  an  unmarried  gentleman  whose  bachelor- 
hood exposed  him  to  many  domestic  vicissitudes 


202     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 


and  un- 
pleasant- 
nesses.     He 
seemed  a  very 
hapless   gentle- 
man, indeed,  and  his 
situation  was  such  that 
one  did  not  wonder  that 

the  winds  in  the  first  verse  "  seemed  to  moan"  at 
him,  even  though  they  intended  it  for  another 
gentleman. 

She  finished  the  last  verse  in  a  burst  of  ecstatic 


"Mamma'    -and  the  First   One       203 

low  giggling.  When  it  was  all  done  she  did  not 
think  of  respecting  it  or  admiring  it  at  all ;  it  did 
not  impress  her,  it  simply  made  her  laugh. 

I  wonder  if  it  can  have  really  been  at  all  actu- 
ally funny.  At  that  age  one  laughs  so  easily.  I 
know  nothing  about  the  verses  but  that  there  was 
an  interesting  incident  connected  with  them,  and 
that  they  made  someone  else  laugh. 

Just  as  she  finished  them  "  Mamma '  came 
home  from  church,  and  hearing  the  front  door- 
bell ring  she  took  her  papers  off  the  table.  It 
would  not  have  done  to  let  "  the  boys  "  know  she 
had  been  trying  to  write  poetry.  They  would 
have  made  her  life  a  burden  to  her. 

But  "  Mamma  "  was  different.  Mamma  always 
liked  to  be  told  about  things,  and  perhaps  the 
verses  would  make  her  laugh,  too.  It  was  always 
nice  to  make  her  laugh. 

So  she  took  the  exercise-book  under  her  arm, 
and  wrent  upstairs  with  it,  still  flushed  and  elated 
by  the  excitement  of  composition. 

Mamma  was  standing  before  the  dressing-table 
taking  off  her  nice  little  black  bonnet.  She  never 
wore  anything  but  black  after  "  Poor  Papa  "  died, 
though  he  died  young. 

She  turned,  smiling,  as  the  Small  Person  ap- 
proached with  the  exercise-book  under  her  arm. 

"  Well,  my  dear,"  she  said.  "  What  have  you 
got  there  ? ' 


204     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

"  I've  got  a  piece  of  poetry,"  said  the  Small 
Person.  "  I  want  to  read  it  to  you  and  see  if  you 
don't  think  it's  funny." 

She  forgot  to  say  anything  about  having  writ- 
ten it  herself.  She  was  so  full  of  it  and  so  ea^er 

o 

to  try  it  on  Mamma  that  it  seemed  unnecessary 
to  say  it  was  her  own.  Just  warm  from  the  writ- 
ing of  it,  she  took  it  for  granted  that  it  was  all 
understood. 

She  looked  so  elated  and  laughing  that  Mam- 
ma laughed  too. 

"  What  is  it  ?  "  she  asked. 

"  Let  me  read  it  to  you,"  said  the  Small  Per- 
son. And  she  began.  "  It's  called  *  Alone/  '  she 
said. 

She  began  with  the  melancholy  verse  and  did 
her  best  by  it.  Mamma  looked  a  little  mysti- 
fied at  first,  but  when  the  second  verse  began 
she  smiled  ;  at  the  third  she  laughed  her  pret- 
ty laugh  ;  at  the  fourth  she  exclaimed  "  How 
funny!'  at  the  fifth  and  sixth  she  laughed  more 
and  more,  and  by  the  time  all  the  others  were 
finished  she  was  laughing  quite  uncontrollably. 
The  Small  Person  was  flushed  with  delight  and 
was  laughing  too. 

"  Do  you  think  it's  funny  ?  '    she  asked. 

"  Funny  ! '  exclaimed  Mamma.  "  Oh,  it  is  very 
funny !  Where  did  you  find  it  ?  Did  you  copy 
it  out  of  one  of  the  periodicals?' 


1 

"  Mamma  '    -and  the  First   One      205 

Then  the  Small  Person  realized  that  Mamma 
did  not  know  who  had  done  it,  and  she  felt  rather 
shy. 

"  Where  did  you  get  it  ?  "  repeated  Mamma. 

The  Small  Person  suddenly  realized  that  there 
was  an  unexpected  awkwardness  in  the  situation. 
It  was  as  if  she  had  to  confess  she  had  been  se- 
creting something. 

She  became  quite  red,  and  answered  almost 
apologetically,  looking  rather  sheepishly  at  Mam- 
ma. 

"  I — didn't  get  it  from  anywhere."  She  hesi- 
tated. "  I  thought  you  knew.  I — I  wrote  it  my- 
self." . 

Mamma's  face  changed.  She  almost  dropped 
her  bonnet  on  the  floor,  she  was  so  astonished. 

"  You  !  "  she  exclaimed,  looking  almost  as  if  she 
was  a  little  frightened  at  such  an  astounding  de- 
velopment. "  You  wrote  it,  my  dear  ?  Are  you 
in  earnest  ?  Why,  it  seems  impossible  ! ' 

"  But  1  did,  Mamma,"  said  the  Small  Person, 
beaming  with  delight  at  success  so  unexpected 
and  intoxicating.  "  I  really  did.  My  own  self. 
I  was  sitting  in  the  drawing-room  by  myself. 
And  I  wanted  to  do  something  because  it  was  so 
lonely — and  the  wind  made  such  a  noise.  And  I 
began  to  write — and  I  made  it  mournful  at  first. 
And  then  I  couldn't  go  on  with  it,  so  I  thought 
I'd  make  it  funny.  See,  here  it  is  in  the  exercise- 


206     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

book — with  all  the  mistakes  in  it.  You  know  you 
always  keep  making  mistakes  when  you  write 
poetry." 


Dear  Mamma  had  never  written  poetry.  It  was 
revealed  afterward  that  "  Poor  Papa"  had  done 
something  of  the  sort  before  he  was  married.  But 
never  Mamma.  And  the  rest  of  the  children- 
Aunt  Emma's  children  and  Aunt  Caroline's  and 
Uncle  Charles's — had  never  shown  any  tendencies 
of  the  kind.  And  the  Square  children  never  did 
it.  I  think  she  was  a  little  alarmed.  She  may 


" Mamma'    -and  the  First   One       207 

privately  have  been  struck  with  a  doubt  as  to  its 
being  quite  healthy.  I  am  afraid  she  thought  it 
was  enormously  clever — and,  in  those  days,  one 
not  infrequently  heard  darkling  stories  of  children 
who  were  so  clever  that  "  it  flew  to  the  brain," 
with  fatal  results.  And  yet,  whatever  her  startled 
thoughts  were,  she  was  undisguisedly  filled  with 
delight  and  almost  incredulous  admiration.  She 
glanced  at  the  exercise-book  and  looked  up  from 
it  quite  blushing  herself  with  surprise  and  pleas- 
ure. 

"  Well,  my  dear,"  she  said,  "  you  have  taken  me 
by  surprise,  I  must  confess.  I  never  thought  of 
such  a  thing.  It — why,  it  is  so  clever  !  ' 

And  she  put  her  arms  about  the  overwhelmed 
and  ecstasized  Small  Person  and  kissed  her.  And 
for  some  reason  her  eyes  looked  quite  oddly  bright, 
and  the  Small  Person,  delighted  though  she  was, 
felt  a  queer  little  lump  for  a  moment  in  her 
throat. 

This  being,  I  suppose,  because  they  were  both 
feminine  things,  and  could  not  even  be  very  much 
delighted  without  being  tempted  to  some  quaint 
emotion. 


CHAPTER  XII. 
"Edith  Somerville"  -and  Raw  Turnips 

I  FIND  it  rather  interesting  to  recall  that,  hav- 
ing had  the  amusement  of  writing  the  poem  and 
the  rapturous  excitement  of  finding  it  was  a  suc- 
cess with  Mamma,  the  Small  Person  did  not  con- 
cern herself  further  about  it.  It  is  more  than 
probable  that  it  had  a  small  career  of  its  own 
among  her  friends  and  relatives;  but  of  that  she 
seems  to  have  heard  nothing  but  that  it  was  read 
to  a  mature  gentleman  who  pronounced  it "  clever." 
She  did  not  inquire  into  the  details  and  was  given 
none  of  them.  This  was  discreet  enough  on  the 

o 

part  of  the  older  people.  She  was  not  a  self-con- 
scious, timid  child,  to  whom  constant  praise  was  a 
necessity.  She  was  an  extremely  healthy  and 
joyous  Small  Person,  and  took  life  with  ease  and 
good  cheer.  She  would  have  been  disappointed 
if  Mamma  had  thought  her  "piece  of  poetry' 
silly  and  had  not  laughed  at  all.  As  she  had 
laughed  so  much  and  had  been  so  pleased  she 
had  had  all  the  triumph  her  nature  craved,  and 
more  might  have  been  bad  for  her.  To  have 
been  led  to  attach  any  importance  to  the  little 


"Edith  Somerville'  209 

effusion  or  to  regard  it  with  respect  would  cer- 
tainly have  been  harmful.  It  is  quite  possible 
that  this  was  the  decision  of  Mamma,  who  proba- 
bly liked  her  entire  unconsciousness. 

It  was  possibly,  however,  a  piece  of  good  fort- 
une for  her  that  her  first  effort  had  not  been  a 
source  of  discouragement  to  her.  If  it  had 
been,  it  is  likely  that  she  would  have  clone 
nothing  more,  and  so  would  not  have  spent  her 
early  years  in  unconscious  training,  which  later 
enabled  her  to  make  an  honest  livelihood. 

As  it  was,  though  she  wrote  no  more  poetry, 
she  began  to  scribble  on  slates  and  in  old  ac- 
count-books thrilling  scenes  from  the  dramas 
acted  with  the  Doll.  It  was  very  exciting  to 
write  them  down,  and  they  looked  very  beauti- 
ful when  written — particularly  if  the  slate  pencil 
was  sharp — but  the  difficulty  was  to  get  a  whole 
scene  on  to  a  slate.  They  had  a  habit  of  not  fit- 
ting, and  then  it  was  awkward.  And  it  hap- 
pened so  frequently  that  just  at  the  most  excit- 
ing point  one's  pencil  would  reach  the  very  last 
line  that  could  be  crowded  in  and  strike  against 
the  frame  in  the  middle  of  a  scene — even  in  the 
middle  of  a  sentence.  And  it  destroyed  the 
sentiment  and  the  thrill  so  to  break  off  in  such 
a  manner  as  this  : 

"  Sir  Marmuduke  turned  proudly   away.     The 

haughty  blood  of  the  Maxweltons  sprang  to  his 
14 


2io     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

check.  Ethelbertii's  heart,  beat  wildly.  She 
held  out  her  snowy  arms.  '  Oh,  Marmaduke !' 
she  cried.  '  Oh,  Marmaduke,  1  cannot  bear  it,' 
and  she  burst- 

You  cannot  get  in  any  more  when  you  come 
to  the  wooden  frame  itself,  and  it  was  trying  to 
everybody — Sir  Marmaduke  Maxwelton  included 
— not  to  know  that  Ethelberta  simply  burst  into 
tears. 

And  it  spoiled  it  to  sponge  it  all  out  and  con- 
tinue on  a  clean  slate.  One  wanted  to  read  it 
all  together  and  get  the  whole  effect  at  once.  It 
was  better  in  old  butcher's  books,  because  there 
was  more  room,  though  of  course  the  cook 
never  had  "  done  with  them,"  until  there  were 
only  a  few  pages  left,  and  even  these  were  only 
given  up  because  they  were  greasy.  Sometimes 
one  had  to  scribble  between  entries,  and  then 
it  might  happen  that  when  Ethelberta,  "ap- 
palled by  the  sight  of  a  strong  man  weeping, 
bent  over  her  lover,  laying  her  white  hand 
upon  his  broad  shoulder,  and  said,  *  Marma- 
duke, what  has  grieved  you  so?  Speak,  dear- 
est, speak ! '  Sir  Marmaduke  turned  his  an- 
guished eyes  upon  her,  and  cried  in  heart-wrung 
tones:  '  Ethelberta -- my  darling --oh,  that  it 
should  be  so  Onions  \d.  Shoulder  of  Mutton 

IOT." 

And     old     copy-books    were     almost    as    bad, 


I    4 


Edit/i   Soinerville '  211 


though  one  sometimes  did  get  a  few  more  blank 
leaves.  But  with  her  knowledge  of  the  impas- 
sioned nature  of  the  descendant  of  the  Maxwel- 
tons  and  his  way  with  Ethelberta  when  he  was 
expressing  his  emotions  freely,  the  Small  Per- 
son could  not  feel  that  "  Contentment  is  better 
than  riches,"  "  Honesty  is  the  best  policy,"  "  A 
rolling  stone  gathers  no  moss,"  were  sentiments 
likely  to  "burst  forth  from  his  o'er-charged 
bosom  as  he  gazed  into  her  violet  eyes  and 
sighed  in  tender  tones '  -which  not  infrequent- 
ly happened  to  him.  Yes,  it  was  extremely  dif- 
ficult to  procure  paper.  When  one's  maturity 
realizes  how  very  much  there  is  of  it  in  the 
world,  and  how  much  might  be  left  blank  with 
advantage,  and  how  much  one  is  obliged  by 
social  rules  to  cover  when  one  would  so  far  pre- 
fer to  leave  it  untouched,  it  seems  rather  sad 
that  an  eager  Small  Person  could  not  have 
had  enough  when  she  so  needed  it  for  serious 
purposes. 

But  she  collected  all  she  could  and  covered 
it  with  vivid  creations.  It  was  necessary  that 
she  should  take  precautions  about  secreting  it 
safely,  however.  "  The  boys,"  having  in  some 
unexplained  way  discovered  her  tendencies,  were 
immensely  exhilarated  by  the  idea,  and  indulged 
in  the  most  brilliant  witticisms  at  her  expense. 

"I  say!'    they  would   proclaim,  "she's  writing 


212     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

a  three-volumed  novel.  The  heroine  has  golden 
hair  that  trails  on  the  ground.  Her  name's  Lady 
Adolphusina." 

They  were  not  ill-natured,  but  a  girl  who  was 
"  romantic '  must  expect  to  be  made  fun  of. 
They  used  to  pretend  to  have  found  pieces  of 
her  manuscript  and  to  quote  extracts  from  them 
when  there  were  people  to  hear. 

It  was  great  fun  for  the  boys,  but  the  frogs- 
I  should  say  the  Small  Person — did  not  enjoy 
it.  She  was  privately  a  sensitive  and  intensely 
proud  Small  Person,  and  she  hated  it,  if  the 
truth  were  told.  She  was  childishly  frank,  but 
desperately  tenacious  of  certain  reserves,  of 
which  the  story-writing  was  one.  She  liked  it 
so  much,  but  she  was  secretly  afraid  it  was  a 
ridiculous  thing  for  a  little  girl  to  do.  Of  course 
a  child  could  not  really  write  stories,  and  per- 
haps it  was  rather  silly  and  conceited  to  pretend, 
even  for  amusement,  that  she  was  doing  it.  But 
she  never  let  anyone  see  what  she  wrote.  She 
would  have  perished  rather.  And  it  really  hurt 
nobody,  however  silly  it  was. 

She  used  to  grow  hot  all  over  when  the  boys 
made  fun  of  her.  She  «;rew  hot  even  if  no  one 

o 

heard  them,  and  if  they  began  before  strangers 
she  felt  the  scarlet  rush  not  only  to  the  roots  of 
her  hair  but  all  among  them  and  to  the  nape  of 
her  neck.  She  used  to  feel  herself  fly  into  a  blaz- 


"Edith   Somerville'  213 

ing  rage,  but  the  realization  she  began  her  first 
conscious  experience  with  at  two  years  old — the 
complete  realization  of  the  uselessness  of  attacking 
a  Fixed  Fact — used  to  make  her  keep  still.  The 
boys  were  a  Fixed  Fact.  You  cannot  stop  boys 
unless  you  Murder  them  ;  and  though  you  may 
feel — for  one  wild,  rushing  moment — that  they 
deserve  it,  you  can't  Murder  your  own  brothers. 
If  you  call  names  and  stamp  your  feet  they  will 
tease  you  more  ;  if  you  burst  out  crying  they  will 
laugh  and  say  that  is  always  the  way  with  girls, 
so  upon  the  whole  it  seems  better  to  try  not  to 
look  in  a  rage  and  keep  your  fury  inside  the  little 
bodice  of  your  frock.  She  was  too  young  to  have 
reached  the  Higher  Carelessness  of  Theosophy  and 
avoid  feeling  the  rage.  She  was  a  mild  creature 
when  left  alone  to  the  Doll  and  the  Story,  but 
she  was  capable  of  furies  many  sizes  too  large  for 
her.  Irritable  she  never  was,  murderous  she  had 
felt  on  more  than  one  occasion  when  she  was  not 
suspected  of  it.  She  was  a  great  deal  too  proud 
to  "  let  people  see."  So  she  always  hid  her  scraps 
of  paper,  and  secreted  herself  when  she  was  cov- 
ering them. 

Mamma  knew  and  never  catechized  her  about 
them  in  the  least,  which  was  very  perfect  in  her. 
She  doubtless  knew  that  in  a  rudimentary  form 
they  contained  the  charms  which  enriched  the 
pages  of  the  Family  Herald  and  the  Young  Ladies' 


214     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

Halfpenny  Journal,  but  she  was  too  kind  to  inter- 
fere with  them,  as  they  did  not  seem  to  interfere 
with  "  Pinnock's  England'  or  inspire  the  child 
with  self-conscious  airs  and  graces. 

My  memory  of  them  is  that  they  were  extreme- 
ly like  the  inspirations  of  the  Young  Ladies  Half- 
penny. The  heroines  had  the  catalogued  list  of 
charms  which  was  indispensable  in  faz  Journal  type 
of  literature.  One  went  over  them  carefully  and 
left  nothing  out.  One  did  not  say  in  an  indefinite, 
slipshod  manner  that  Cecile  was  a  blonde.  One 
entered  into  detail  and  described  what  she  "  had ' 
in  the  way  of  graces.  "  She  had  a  mass  of  silken, 
golden  locks  which  fell  far  below  her  tiny  waist  in 
a  shower  of  luxuriant  ringlets.  She  had  a  straight, 
delicate  nose,  large,  pellucid  violet  eyes,  slender, 
arched  eyebrows,  lashes  which  swept  her  softly 
rounded,  rose-tinted  cheek,  a  mouth  like  Cupid's 
bow,  a  brow  of  ivory  on  which  azure  veins  me- 
andered, pink  ears  like  ocean  shells,  a  throat  like 
alabaster,  shoulders  like  marble,  a  Avaist  which  one 
might  span,  soft,  fair  arms,  snowy,  tapering,  dim- 
pled hands,  and  the  tiniest  feet  in  the  world.  She 
wore  a  filmy  white  robe,  confined  at  her  slender 
waist  by  a  girdle  of  pearl  and  gold,  and  her  luxu- 
riant golden  tresses  were  wreathed  with  snow- 
drops." 

Heroines   were    not   things   to  be  passed  over 
as  mere  trivialities  or  e very-day  affairs.     Neither 


"  Edit/I   Somerville '  215 

were  heroes.  Sir  Marmaduke  Maxwelton  covered 
nearly  two  whole  slates  before  he  was  done 
with,  and  then  entire  justice  was  not  done  to  the 
"  patrician  air  which  marked  all  of  Maxwelton 
blood." 

But  how  entrancing  it  was  to  do  it.  The  Small 
Person  particularly  revelled  in  the  hair,  and  eyes, 
and  noses.  Noses  had  always  struck  her  as  being- 
more  or  less  unsatisfactory,  as  a  rule,  but  with  a 
pencil  in  one's  hand  one  can  "chisel  "  them,  and 
"  daintily  model"  them  ;  they  can  be  given  a  " de- 
licately patrician  outline,"  a  "  proud  aquiline 
curve,"  "  a  coquettish  tilt,"  and  be  made  Greek  or 
Roman  with  a  touch ;  and  as  to  hair,  to  be  able  to 
bestow  "  torrents  '  of  it,  or  "  masses,"  or  "  coils," 
or  "  coronals,"  or  "  clouds,"  is  an  actual  relief  to 
the  feelings.  Out  of  a  butcher's  or  greengrocer's 
book  there  is  a  limit  to  the  size  of  eyes,  but  within 
their  classic  pages  absolutely  none. 

Edith  Somerville's  hair,  I  remember  distinctly, 
was  golden-brown.  The  weight  of  the  "  long, 
thick,  heavy  curls  which  fell  almost  to  her  knee  ' 
was  never  stated,  but  my  impression — the  cold, 
callous  impression  produced  by  a  retentive  mem- 
ory drawing  from  the  shades  of  the  past  the  pict- 
ure its  volume  made  on  the  Small  Person's  mind 
-my  impression  would  be  that  no  mortal  frame 
could  have  borne  it  about.  Edith  Somerville 
would  have  been  dragged  to  earth  by  it.  Her 


216     The   One  I  Kneiv  the  Best  of  AIL 

eyes  were  "  large,  soft,  violet  eyes,"  and  were 
shaded  by  "  fringes  '  almost  as  long  and  heavy 
as  her  hair.  But  neither  of  these  advantages  re- 
strained her  from  active  adventure  and  emotions 
sufficiently  varied  and  deep  to  have  reduced  her 
to  Hair  Restorer  as  a  stern  necessity. 

She  was  not  created  in  a  copy-book  or  recorded 
on  a  slate.  She  was  Told. 

She  began  in  school  on  one  of  the  "  Embroid- 
ery' Afternoons.  On  two  or  three  afternoons 
each  week  the  feminine  portion  of  the  school  was 
allowed  to  do  fancy-work- -to  embroider,  to 
crochet,  to  do  tatting,  or  make  slippers  or  cush- 
ions, with  pink  lap-dogs,  or  blue  tulips,  or  Moses 
in  the  Bulrushes  on  them  in  wool-work  and  beads. 
They  were  delightful  afternoons,  and  the  reins  of 
discipline  were  relaxed. 

Sometimes  some  one  read  aloud,  and  when  this 
was  not  being  done  low-voiced  talk  was  permitted. 

It  was  not  an  uncommon  thing  for  children  to 
say  to  each  other  : 

"  Do  you  know  any  tales  to  tell  ?" 

The  Small  Person,  on  being  asked  this  ques- 
tion, had  told  something  more  than  once.  But 
being  asked  on  this  special  afternoon  by  the  little 
girl  sitting  next  to  her,  she  did  not  reply  encour- 
agingly. 

"  I  can't  think  of  anything  to  tell,"  she  said. 

"  Oh,    try,"    said    her    small    neighbor,    whose 


"Edith   Somerville'  217 

name    was   Kate.     "Just    try;    you'll    remember 
something." 

"  I  don't  think  I  can,"  said  the  Small  Person. 
"  The  things  1  know  best  seem  to  have  gone  out 
of  mv  head." 

J 

"  Well,  tell  an  old  one,  then,"  urged  Kate. 
<4  Just  anything  will  do.  You  know  such  a  lot." 

The  Small  Person  was  making  wonderful  open- 
work embroidery,  composed  of  a  pattern  in  holes 
which  had  to  be  stitched  round  with  great  care. 
She  hesitated  a  moment,  then  took  a  fresh  needle- 
ful of  cotton  from  the  twisted  coil  which  \vas 
kept  thrown  round  her  neck,  so  that  it  was  easy 
to  pull  a  thread  out  of. 

"  I  don't  want  to  tell  an  old  one,"  she  said ; 
"but  I'll  tell  you  what  I'll  do,  I'll  make  one  up 
out  of  my  head." 

"  Make  one  out  of  your  own  head  ! "  said  Kate, 
with  excitement.  "  Can  you  ?  ' 

"  Yes,  I  can,"  answered  the  Small  Person,  with 
some  slight  awkwardness.     "  Don't  you  tell  any- 
one— but  I  sometimes  make  them  up  for  my  self- 
just  for  fun,  you  know — and  write  them  on  slates, 
but  you  can't  get  them  all  in  on  a  slate." 

"  You  write  them ! '  Kate  exclaimed  in  a 
breathless  whisper,  staring  at  her  with  doubting 
but  respectful  eyes. 

"  Yes,"  the  Small  Person  whispered  back. 
"  It's  very  easy." 


218     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

"Why-  gasped  Kate.  "  Why--you're  an 

Auth'rcss— like  Charles  Dickens." 

"  No,  I'm  not,"  said  the  Small  Person,  a  little 
crossly,  because  somehow  she  felt  rather  ridicu- 
lous and  pretentious.  "  I'm  not.  Of  course  that's 
different.  I  just  make  them  up.  It  isn't  a  bit 
hard." 

"  Do  you  make  them  up  out  of  things  you've 
read  ?  "  asked  Kate. 

"  No,  that  wouldn't  be  any  fun.  I  just  think 
them." 

Kate  gazed  at  her,  doubtful  respect  mingling 
itself  with  keen  curiosity.  She  edged  closer  to 
her. 

"  Make  up  one  now,"  she  said,  "  and  tell  it  to 
me.  Nobody  will  hear  if  you  speak  low." 

And  so  began  the  first  chapter  of  "  Edith 
Somerville."  It  may  have  been  the  Small  Per- 
son's liberality  in  the  matter  of  the  golden-brown 
hair,  her  lavishness  as  to  features  and  complexion, 
and  the  depth  and  size  of  the  violet  eyes  which 
fascinated  her  hearer.  Suffice  it  to  say  she  was 
bound  as  by  a  spell.  She  edged  closer  and  closer 
and  hung  upon  the  words  of  the  story-teller 
breathlessly.  She  had  an  animated  little  face  and 
it  became  more  animated  with  every  incident. 
Her  crochet-work  was  neglected  and  she  made 
mistakes  in  it.  If  there  was  a  moment's  interrup- 
tion for  any  reason  whatever,  the  instant  the  cause 


"  Editk  Somerville '  219 

was  removed  she  snuggled  excitedly  against  the 
Small  Person,  saying: 

"  Oh,  go  on,  go  on  !  Tell  some  more,  tell  some 
more ! ' 

The  Small  Person  became  excited  herself.  She 
was  not  limited  by  a  slate-frame  and  she  had  the 
stimulus  of  an  enraptured  audience.  She  "  told  ' 
"  Edith  Somerville '  all  the  afternoon,  and  when 
she  left  the  school-room  Kate  followed  her  while 
she  related  it  on  the  way  home,  and  even  stood 
and  told  some  more  at  the  front  gate.  It  was  not 
finished  when  they  parted.  It  was  not  a  story  to 
be  finished  in  an  afternoon.  It  was  to  be  con- 
tinued on  the  next  opportunity.  It  was  continued 
at  all  sorts  of  times  and  in  all  sorts  of  places. 
Kate  allowed  no  opportunity  or  the  ghost  of  one 
to  slip  by. 

"Just  tell  a  little  'Edith  Somerville'  while 
we're  waiting,"  she  would  say,  whether  it  was  in 
the  few  minutes  before  Miss  Hatleigh  came  in, 
or  in  a  few  minutes  when  she  was  called  from 
the  room  by  some  unforeseen  incident,  or  on  the 
way  downstairs,  or  in  the  cloak-room,  or  waiting 
for  the  door-bell  to  be  answered  when  the  Small 
Person  went  home  to  her  dinner  or  tea.  It  was 
not  only  the  Embroidery  Afternoons  that  were 
utilized,  any  afternoon  or  morning,  or  any  hour 
would  do. 

For  a  short  time  the  narrative  was  an  entire 


22O     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

secret.  The  Small  IVrson  was  as  afraid  of  being 
heard  as  she  was  when  she  entertained  herself 
with  the  Doll.  When  anyone  approached  she 
dropped  her  voice  very  low  or  stopped  speaking. 
11  What  makes  you  so  funny  ?  '  Kate  used  to  say. 


41  I  wouldn't  care  a  bit.  It's  a  beautiful  tale." 
And  somehow  one  of  the  other  little  girls  found 
out  that  the  beautiful  tale  was  being  told,  and 
Kate  was  made  a  go-between  in  the  matter  of 
appeal. 

"  Lizzie  wants  to  know  if  she  may  listen  ?  '    the 
Small  Person  was  asked,  and  after  a  little  hesita- 


' '  EditJi   Somerv ille '  221 

tion  she  gave  consent  and  Lizzie  listened,  and  a 
little  later  one  or  two  others  attached  themselves 
to  the  party.  There  were  occasions  when  three 
or  four  little  girls  revelled  in  the  woes  and  rapt- 
ures of  Edith  Somerville. 

The  relation  lasted  for  weeks.     It  began  with 

o 

the  heroine's  infancy  and  included  her  boarding- 
school  days  and  the  adventures  of  all  her  com- 
panions of  both  sexes.  There  was  a  youthful  fe- 
male villain  whose  vices  were  stamped  upon  her 
complexion.  She  had  raven  hair  and  an  olive 
skin,  and  she  began  her  career  of  iniquity  at 
twelve  years  old,  when  she  told  lies  about  the 
nice  blond  girls  at  the  boarding-school,  and 
through  heartless  duplicity  and  fiendish  machina- 
tions was  the  cause  of  Edith  Somerville's  being 

o 

put  to  bed — for  nothing.  She  was  always  found 
out  in  the  most  humiliating  way  and  covered 
with  ignominy  and  confusion,  besides  being  put 
to  bed  herself  and  given  pages  and  pages  of  ex- 
tra lessons  to  learn.  But  this  did  not  discour- 
age her;  she  always  began  again.  An  ordinary 
boarding-school  would  have  dismissed  her  and 
sent  her  home  in  charge  of  a  policeman,  but  this 
school  could  not  have  gone  on  without  her. 
Edith  Somerville  would  have  had  no  opportunity 
to  shine  at  all,  and  her  life  would  have  become  a 
flat,  stale,  and  unprofitable  affair.  Nothing  could 
damp  the  ardor  of  the  little  female  villain  with 


222     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

the  large  black  eyes.  When  they  had  left  school, 
and  Cecil  Castleton,  who  had  purple  eyes  and 
soft  black  hair,  loomed  up  at  Somerville  Hall, 
with  a  tall,  slender,  graceful  figure  and  a  slender, 
silken  mustache,  then  the  female  villain  began  to 
look  about  her  seriously  to  invent  new  plots  in 
which  she  could  be  unmasked,  to  the  joy  of  all 
the  blond  people  concerned.  Cecil  Castleton's 
complexion  was  not  olive  and  his  hair  was  not 
raven — it  was  only  black,  and  soft  and  wavy,  and 
his  eyes  were  purple,  which  quite  saved  him  from 
being  a  villain.  You  could  not  be  a  villain  if  you 
had  purple  eyes.  The  female  villain  was  natu- 
rally deeply  enamored  of  him,  and  wished  to  sep- 
arate him  from  Edith  Somerville.  But,  of  course, 
it  was  no  use.  She  would  do  things  it  would  take 
days  to  tell  about,  and  the  narration  of  which 
would  cause  the  school-room  audience  to  gasp 
and  turn  quite  pale,  but  Cecil  Castleton  always 
found  her  out  after  Edith  Somerville  and  himself 
had  suffered  agonies.  And  it  almost  seemed  as 
if  he  could  scarcely  have  helped  it.  One  might 
have  imagined  that  she  was  extremely  careful  to 
commit  no  crime  which  could  not  be  exposed. 
She  was  always  dropping  things  where  people 
would  find  them  when  she  had  been  listening, 

o  ' 

and  she  sat  up  at  nights  to  keep  a  diary  about  the 
lies  she  told  and  those  she  intended  to  tell,  and 
even  wrote  letters  to  her  aunt  that  she  misrht 

o 


'  *  Edit/i  Somerville '  223 

gloat  in  black  and  white  over  the  miseries  and  es- 
trangements she  was  planning.  Sometimes  she 
even  put  these  letters  into  the  wrong  envelopes, 
particularly  when  she  intended  to  accept  an  in- 
vitation to  take  tea  with  Edith  Somerville's  bos- 
om friend.  This  feebleness  of  mind  may,  like 
her  character,  have  been  the  result  of  her  com- 
plexion, but  it  gave  thrill  and  excitement  to  the 
story. 

And  how  the  audience  was  enthralled!  It 
would  be  a  pleasing  triumph  for  a  story-teller  of 
mature  years  to  see  such  eyes,  such  lips,  to  hear 
such  exclamations  of  delight  or  horror  as  this  in- 
choate Small  Person  was  inspired  by. 

Naturally,  stories  told  in  school  and  at  odd 
times  meet  with  interruptions. 

"  Young  ladies,  you  are  talking ! '  Miss  Hat- 
leigh  would  say  sometimes,  or  one  would  reach 
the  front  gate,  or  some  one  would  intrude,  and 
then  everything  stopped.  When  it  began  again 
it  began  with  a  formula. 

" And    so — Edith    came    floating    li^htlv 

o  o          y 

down  the  broad  old  oak  stairway  while  Cecil 
Castleton  stood  waiting  below." 

It  always  began  "  And  so."  That  seemed  to 
join  it  on  to  what  had  gone  before.  Accordingly, 
if  the  Small  Person  paused  for  a  moment,  Kate, 
whose  property  she  had  become,  and  who  ex- 
ploited her  as  it  were,  and  always  sat  next  to  her, 


224     The   OHC  I  Knew  t/ic  Best  of  All 

would  make  a  little  excited  movement  of  impa- 
tience in  her  seat,  and  poke  her  in  the  side  with 
her  elbow. 

"  And  so-        '  she  would  suggest.     "  And  so- 
and  so-  Oh,  do  go  on  ! ' 

And   the  others  would  lean  forward   also,  and 
repeat:    "And    so? — And    so?'    until    she    began 


again. 


The  history  of  Edith  Somerville  being  com- 
pleted she  began  another  romance  of  equal 
power. 

It  was  also  of  equal  length,  extending  over 
weeks  of  relation,  and  at  its  completion  she  began 
another,  and  another,  and  another.  There  is  no 
knowing  how  many  she  told,  but  however  her 
audience  varied  Kate  always  sat  next  to  her. 
There  were  never  more  than  two  or  three  other 
listeners.  The  Tale  Listeners  were  a  little  exclu- 
sive and  liked  to  keep  together. 

It  was  through  a  brilliant  inspiration  of  Kate's 
that  a  banquet  became  part  of  the  performance. 
The  Small  Person  was  extremely  fond  of  green 
apples — very  green  and  sour  ones,  such  as  can  be 
purchased  at  the  apple-stands  only  sufficiently 
early  in  the  year  to  be  considered  unfit  for  human 
food.  A  ripe  and  rosy  apple  offered  no  induce- 
ments, but  a  perfectly  green  one,  each  crisp 
bite  of  which  was  full  of  sharp  juice,  was  a  thing 
to  revel  in. 


' '  Edith   Somerville '  225 

Knowing  this  taste,  Kate  had  the  adroit  wit 
to  arrive  one  afternoon  with  her  small  pocket 
bulging. 

"  I've  got  something  ! "  she  whispered. 

"What  is  it?" 

"  Something  to  eat  while  you're  telling  '  Edith 
Somerville.'  Green  apples." 

They  were  such  a  rapturous  success  and 
seemed  so  inspiring  in  their  effect  that  they 
founded  a  custom.  The  Listeners  got  into  the 
habit  of  bringing  them  by  turns.  Green  goose- 
berries were  also  tried  and  soon  Kate  had  an- 
other inspiration. 

"  If  I  can  get  a  little  jug  downstairs,"  she 
whispered  one  afternoon,  "  I  am  going  to  fill  it 
with  water  and  bring  it  up  hidden  in  my  frock. 
And  we  can  hide  it  under  the  form  and  take 
drinks  out  of  it  when  no  one  is  looking-." 

C5 

This  may  not  appear  to  be  a  wildly  riotous 
proceeding,  but  as  jugs  of  water  were  not  ad- 
mitted into  the  school-room  and  if  one  wanted  a 
drink  one  went  decorously  downstairs  first,  the 
idea  of  a  private  jug  and  concealed  libations  was 
a  daring  and  intoxicating  thing. 

Only  Kate  would  have  thought  of  this.  She 
was  a  little  girl  with  a  tremendous  flow  of  spirits 
and  an  enterprising  mind.  She  was  sometimes 
spoken  of  by  the  authorities,  rather  disapprov- 
ingly, as  "  a  Romp." 
15 


226    The   Otic  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

The  Romp  managed  the  feat  of  bringing  up 
the  jug  of  water.  It  was  quite  thrilling  to  see 
her  come  in  as  if  she  had  nothing  whatever  con- 
cealed behind  the  folds  of  her  skirt.  She  walked 
carefully  and  showed  signs  of  repressing  giggles 
as  she  approached  the  Listeners. 

"  Have  you  got  it?"  whispered  the  Small 
Person. 

"  Yes — under  my  frock.  I'll  put  it  under  the 
form." 

It  was  put  under  the  form  and,  as  soon  as  it 
was  considered  discreet,  drinks  were  taken — sips 
out  of  the  side  of  the  jug,  combined  with  green 
apples.  Nobody  was  particularly  thirsty,  and  if 
they  had  been  there  was  plenty  of  water  down- 
stairs, but  that  was  not  contraband,  it  was  not 
mingled  with  acid  apples  and  "  Edith  Somer- 
ville." 

There  was  a  suggestion  of  delightful  riot  and 
dissipation  in  it.  It  was  a  sort  of  school-room 
Bacchanalian  orgie,  and  it  added  to  the  advent- 
ures of  Edith  Somerville  just  the  touch  of 
license  needed.  The  Small  Person's  enjoyment 
was  a  luxurious  thing.  To  fill  one's  mouth  with 
green  apple  and  wash  it  clown  furtively  from  the 
jug  under  the  form  was  bordering  on  perilous 
adventure.  She  was  verv  fond  of  bordering:  on 

^  o 

adventure.     When  apples  were  no  longer  green 
somebody  brought  raw  turnips.     Perhaps  it  was 


' '  Edith  Somerville '  227 

Kate  again.  She  was  a  child  with  resources. 
Some  of  the  girls  seemed  to  like  them.  The 
Small  Person  did  not,  but  she  liked  the  sense  of 
luxury  and  peril  they  represented.  She  was  so 
pleased  with  the  flavor  of  the  situation  that  she 
bore  up  against  the.  flavor  of  the  raw  turnips. 
She  never  told  her  fellow-banqueters  that  she 
did  not  enjoy  them,  that  she  found  them  tough 
and  queer,  and  that  it  needed  a  great  deal  of 
water  to  wash  them  down.  She  took  large  bites 
and  obstinately  refused  to  admit  to  herself  that 
they  were  on  the  whole  rather  nasty.  To  admit 
this  would  have  been  to  have  lost  an  atmosphere 
-an  illusion.  And  she  was  very  fond  of  her 
illusions.  She  loved  them.  She  went  on  tell- 
ing the  stones  and  the  listeners  hung  on  her 
words  and  nourished  themselves  with  deadly  in- 
digestibles.  And  nobody  died — either  of  "  Edith 
Somerville  "  or  the  raw  turnips. . 


CHAPTER  XIII. 

CJiristoplicr    Columbus 

SHE  told  many  stories  "  Continued  in  our  Next," 
through  many  weeks,  to  the  Listeners,  whose 
property  she  seemed  to  become.  They  had 
their  established  places  near  her.  Kate's  was  the 
nearest,  and,  in  fact,  she  was  chief  proprietress 
of  the  entertainment.  She  had  been,  as  it  were, 
the  cause  of  Edith  Somerville,  who  but  for  her 
\voulcl  never  have  existed.  My  impression  is  that 
she  arranged  where  the  Listeners  should  sit,  and 
that  her  influence  was  employed  by  outsiders  who 
wanted  to  gain  admission.  She  was  an  impetu- 
ous child,  and  did  not  like  to  lose  time.  If  by 
some  chance  a  Listener  dropped  out  of  the  ranks 
for  an  afternoon,  and,  returning,  asked  anxiously : 

"  What  did  you  tell  yesterday  ?  I  didn't  hear 
that  part,  you  know ; '  Kate  would  turn  and 
give  a  hasty  and  somewhat  impatient  resume  of 
the  chief  events  related. 

"  Oh,  Malcolm  came,"  she  would  say,  "  and 
Violet  had  a  white  dress  with  bluebells  at  her 
belt,  and  he  was  jealous  of  Godfrey,  and  he  got 
in  a  temper  at  Violet,  and  they  quarrelled,  and  he 


Christopher   Columbus  229 

went  away  forever,  and  she  went  in  a  boat  on  the 
lake,  and  a  storm  came  up,  and  he  hadn't  quite 
gone  away,  and  he  was  wandering  round  the  lake, 
and  he  plunged  in  and  saved  her,  and  her  golden 
hair  was  all  wet  and  tangled  with  bluebells,  and 
so-  turning  to  the  Small  Person — "and  so- 
now  go  on  ! ' 

And  then  would  proceed  the  recital  describing 
the  anguish  and  remorse  of  the  late  infuriate  Mal- 
colm as  he  knelt  upon  the  grass  by  the  side  of 
the  drenched  white  frock  and  golden  hair  and 
bluebells,  embracing  the  small,  limp,  white  hand, 
and  imploring  the  violet  eyes  to  open  and  gaze 
upon  him  once  more. 

They  always  did  open.  Penitent  lovers  were 
always  forgiven,  rash  ones  were  reconciled,  wick- 
edness was  always  punished,  offended  relatives 
always  relented  - -particularly  rich  uncles  and 
fathers — opportune  fortunes  were  left  invariably 
at  opportune  moments.  No  Listener  was  ever 
harrowed  too  long  or  allowed  to  rust  her  crochet 
needles  entirely  with  tears.  As  the  Small  Person 
was  powerful,  so  she  was  merciful.  As  she  was 
lavish  with  the  golden  hair,  so  she  was  generous 
with  the  rest.  A  tendency  toward  reckless  liber- 
ality and  soft  relenting  marked  her  for  its  prey 
even  at  this  early  hour.  I  have  never  been  quite 
able  to  decide  whether  she  was  a  very  weak  or 
a  very  determined  creature — weak,  because  she 


230    The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

could  not  endure  to  sec  Covent  Garden  merely 
as  the  costermongers  saw  it — or  determined,  be- 
cause she  had  the  courage  to  persist  in  ignor- 
ing the  flavor  of  the  raw  turnip  and  in  bestowing 
on  it  a  flavor  of  her  own.  After  all,  it  is  possi- 
ble that  to  do  this  requires  decision  and  fixed- 
ness of  purpose.  In  life  itself,  agreeable  situa- 
tions are  so  often  flavored  by  the  raw  turnip,  and 
to  close  one's  eyes  steadily  to  the  fact  that  it  is 
not  a  sun-warmed  peach,  not  infrequently  calls 
upon  one's  steadiness  of  resource. 

If  she  had  been  a  sharp,  executive,  business-like 
sort  of  child,  she  might  have  used  her  juvenile 
power  as  a  thing  with  a  certain  market  value. 
She  might  have  dictated  terms,  made  conditions, 
and  gained  divers  school-room  advantages.  But 
she  had  no  capacities  of  the  sort.  She  simply 
told  the  stories  and  the  others  listened.  If  there 
had  been  a  Listener  astute  enough  in  a  mercantile 
way  to  originate  the  plan  of  privately  farming 
her  out,  it  might  easily  have  been  managed  with- 
out her  knowledge.  She  had  been  a  stupidly  un- 
suspecting little  person  from  her  infancy,  and  she 
might  always  have  been  relied  upon  for  the 
stories.  But  there  was  no  Listener  with  these 
tendencies,  that  I  am  aware  of. 

There  came  a  time  when  some  windfall  gave 
into  her  possession  an  exercise-book  which  was 
almost  entirely  unused.  She  wrote  her  first  com- 


Christopher  Columbus  231 

plete  story  in  it.  It  had  been  her  habit  previous- 
ly to  merely  write  scenes  from  stories  on  the  slate 
and  in  the  butcher's  books.  Sir  Marmaduke 
Maxwelton  and  his  companions  were  never  com- 
pleted. But  the  one  in  the  blank-book  came  to  a 
conclusion.  Its  title  was  "  Frank  Ellsworth,  or 
Bachelors'  Buttons."  There  was  nothing  what- 
ever in  it  which  had  any  connection  with  buttons, 
but  the  hero  was  a  bachelor.  He  was  twenty- 
two,  and  had  raven  hair,  and,  rendered  firm  by 
the  passage  of  years  of  vast  experience,  had  de- 
cided that  nothing  earthly  would  induce  him  to 
unite  himself  in  matrimony.  The  story  opened 
with  his  repeating  this  to  his  housekeeper,  who 
was  the  typical  adoring  family  servant.  The 
venerable  lady  naturally  smiled  and  shook  her 
head  with  playful  sadness — and  then  the  discrim- 
inating reader  knew  that  in  the  next  page  would 
loom  up  the  Edith  Somerville  of  the  occasion, 
whose  large  and  lustrous  azure  eyes  and  vail  of 
pale  golden  ringlets  would  shake  even  the  resolu- 
tion of  his  stern  manhood,  and  that,  after  pages 
of  abject  weakness,  he  would  fall  at  her  feet  in  a 
condition  which  could  only  be  described  as  driv- 
elling. My  impression  is  that  the  story  contained 
no  evidence  whatever  of  intelligence.  But  it  was 
not  at  intelligence  that  the  Small  Person  was 
aiming.  She  was  only  telling  a  story.  She  was 
very  simple  about  it.  She  added  the  sub-title, 


232     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

"  or  Bachelors'  Buttons,"  because  she  was  pleased 
to  see  something  in  it  vaguely  figurative,  and  she 
liked  the  sound. 

This  story  she  read  to  Mamma,  who  said  it  was 
"  a  very  pretty  tale,"  and  seemed  somehow  a  lit- 
tie  amused.  Perhaps,  after  all,  Mamma  was 
clever.  She  never  discouraged  or  made  the 
Small  Person  feel  her  efforts  silly  and  preten- 
tious, but  her  gentle  praise  gave  no  undue  impor- 
tance to  them,  and  somehow  seemed  to  make 
them  quite  natural  and  innocent  child  develop- 
ments. They  were  not  things  to  be  vain  about, 
only  things  to  enjoy  in  one's  own  very  young  way. 

The  Small  Person  obtained  other  blank-books 
and  began  other  stories,  but  none  were  ever  fin- 
ished. It  always  happened  that  a  new  one  in- 
sisted on  being  begun  and  pushed  the  first  aside. 
A  very  long  one — the  pride  of  her  heart— called 
"  Celeste,  or  Fortune's  Wheel,"  was  the  guiding 
star  of  her  twelfth  year,  but  it  was  not  concluded, 
and  was  thrown  into  the  fire  with  all  the  rest 
when  she  left  her  own  land  for  a  new  one. 

The  unfinished  stories  rather  troubled  her. 
When  the  infant  regret  that  she  was  not  a  suita- 
able  subject  for  Sunday-school  Memoirs  had 
melted  into  a  vague  young  desire  not  to  have 
many  faults,  she  used  to  wonder  if  the  fact  that 
so  many  stories  were  begun  and  not  finished,  was 
a  sign  of  an  undesirable  mental  quality. 


Christopher   Columbus  233 

"I  ought  \&  finish  them,"  she  use  to  think,  re- 
morsefully. "  I  ought  not  to  begin  things  I  don't 
finish."  And  she  reproached  herself  quite  se- 
verely. 

"  Shall  I  go  on  like  this,  and  never  finish  one  ?  ' 
she  thought,  and  she  was  vaguely  distressed  by  a 
shadowing  feeling  that  it  might  be  her  sort  to  be 
always  beginning,  and  never  finishing. 

Inspired  by  her  example,  several  of  the  Listen- 
ers began  to  write  stories  in  old  blank-books. 

o 

They  were  all  echoes  of  Edith  Somerville,  and 
when  they  were  given  to  her  to  read,  she  sternly 
repressed  in  herself  any  occasional  criticism 
which  arose  in  her  small  mind.  She  was  afraid 
that  criticism  on  her  part,  even  though  only  men- 
tal, was  a  sign  of  what  was  generally  spoken  of  as 
"  a  bad  disposition."  She  was,  in  private,  ex- 
tremely desirous  not  to  have  "  a  bad  disposition." 

"  I  am  conceited,"  she  said  to  herself.  "  That 
is  the  reason  I  don't  think  their  stories  are  as  nice 
as  mine.  It  is  vulgar  and  ridiculous  to  be  con- 
ceited, besides  being  bad." 

There  was  one  Listener  who  described  her 
hero,  at  an  interesting  juncture,  as  "  holding  out 
his  tiny  lily  hand,"  and  something  within  her  was 
vaguely  revolted  by  a  sense  of  the  grotesque,  but 
she  could  not  have  been  induced  to  comment 
upon  the  circumstance. 

It  might,  in  these   days,  be   interesting  to  ex- 


234     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

amine  these  manuscripts — if  they  still  existed- 
with  a  view  to  discovering  if  they  contained  any 
germ  of  a  reason  why  one  child  should  have  con- 
tinued to  write  stories  throughout  life,  while  the 
rest  did  not  write  again.  The  romances  of  the 
Small  Person  were  wildly  romantic  and  pre- 
posterously sentimental,  without  a  doubt.  That 
there  was  always  before  her  mind's  eye  a  distinct 
and  strongly  colored  picture  of  her  events,  I  re- 
member ;  the  Listeners  laughed  and  occasionally 
cried,  and  were  always  rapt  in  their  attention  ; 
but  if  regarded  with  the  impartial  eye  of  cold 
criticism,  my  impression  is  that  they  might  be 
dismissed  as  arrant  nonsense.  The  story  ran  riot 
through  their  pages,  unbilled  and  unbridled. 

But  no  one  ever  saw  them  but  herself.  Even 
Mamma  heard  only  the  reading  of  "  Frank  Ells- 
worth." The  rest,  scribbled  in  copy-books  and 
blank-books,  accumulated  in  darkness  and  pri- 
vacy, until  the  first  great  event  of  her  life  oc- 
curred. 

It  was  a  very  great  event,  and,  I  am  convinced, 
changed  the  whole  color  of  existence  for  her.  It 
was  no  less  a  matter  than  leaving  England,  to 
begin  a  new  life  in  America. 

The  events  which  preceded,  and  were  the  final 
reasons  for  it,  were  not  pleasant  ones.  She  was 
too  young  to  be  told  all  the  details  of  them.  But 
the  beginning  of  it  all  was  a  sort  of  huge  Story, 


Christopher  Columbus  235 

which  seized  upon  her  imagination.  It  seemed 
to  her  that,  for  years  and  years,  everyone  seemed 
to  live,  more  or  less,  under  the  shadow  of  a  cloud 
spoken  of  as  "the  War  in  America."  This  was 
probably  felt  more  in  the  cotton  manufacturing 
centres  than  anywhere  else.  Lancashire  was  the 
great  county  of  cotton  factories.  Manchester 
was  the  very  High  Altar  of  the  God  Cotton. 
There  were  rich  men  in  Manchester  who  were 
known  everywhere  as  Cotton  Lords.  The  smoke 

rolling  from   the  tall  Babel  Towers  which  were 
<_> 

the  chimneys  of  their  factories,  made  the  sky 
dingy  for  scores  of  miles  around,  the  back  streets 
were  inhabited  by  the  men  and  women  who 
worked  at  their  looms,  the  swarms  of  smoke-be- 
grimed children  who  played  everywhere,  began 
to  work  in  the  factories  as  early  as  the  law  al- 
lowed. All  the  human  framework  of  the  great 
dirty  city  was  built  about  the  cotton  trade.  All 
the  working  classes  depended  upon  it  for  bread, 
all  the  middle  classes  for  employment,  all  the 
rich  for  luxury.  The  very  poor,  being  wakened 
at  four  in  the  morning  by  the  factory  bells, 
flocked  to  the  buildings  over  which  the  huge 
chimneys  towered  and  rolled  their  volume  of 
black  smoke  ;  the  respectable  fathers  of  families 
spent  their  days  in  the  counting-rooms  or  differ- 
ent departments  of  the  big  warehouses ;  the  men 
of  wealth  lived  their  lives  among  cotton,  buying 


236     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

and  selling,  speculating  and  gaining  or  losing  in 
Cotton,  Cotton,  Cotton. 

"  If  the  war  in  America  does  not  end,"  it  began 
to  be  said  at  one  time,  "  there  will  be  no  more 
cotton,  and  the  manufacturers  will  not  know  what 
to  do." 

But  this  was  at  first,  when  everyone  believed 
that  the  difficulty  would  settle  itself  in  a  few 
months,  and  the  North  and  South  would  be  united 
again.  No  one  was  pessimist  enough  to  believe 
that  such  a  terrible  thing  would  happen  as  that 
the  fighting  would  continue. 

But  after  a  while  other  things  were  said. 

"  There  is  beginning  to  be  a  scarcity  of  cotton. 
People  even  say  that  some  of  the  factories  may 
have  to  stop  work." 

Every  closed  factory  meant  hunger  to  scores  of 
operatives- -even  hundreds.  But  still  the  war 
went  on  in  America. 

"  Jackson's  factory  has  stopped  work  because 
there  is  no  cotton  ! "  came  a  little  later. 

Then  : 

"  Bright's  has  stopped  work  !  All  the  opera- 
tives thrown  out  of  employment.  Jones  is  going 
to  stop,  and  Perkins  can  only  keep  on  about  two 
weeks  longer.  They  are  among  the  biggest,  and 
there  will  be  hundreds  on  the  street.  Brownson's 
ruined.  Had  no  cotton  to  fill  his  engagements. 
All  these  enormously  rich  fellows  will  feel  it  aw- 


Christopher   Columbus  237 

fully,  but  the  ones  who  are  only  in  moderate  cir- 
cumstances will  go  to  smash  ! ' 

It  was  oftenest  the  Boys  who  brought  these  re- 
ports. And  still  the  war  went  on  in  America,  and 
the  Small  Person  heard  rumors  of  battles,  of  vic- 
tories and  losses,  of  killed  and  wounded,  of  the 
besieging  of  cities  with  strange-sounding  names, 
of  the  South  overwhelmed  by  armies,  of  planta- 
tions pillaged,  magnolia-embowered  houses  ran- 
sacked and  burned.  At  least  when  she  heard  of 
Southern  houses  being  destroyed,  she  herself  at 
once  supplied  the  magnolias.  To  her  the  South 
was  the  land  of  "  Uncle  Tom's  Cabin."  A  planta- 
tion meant  a  boundless  estate,  swarming  with 
negroes  like  Uncle  Tom,  Aunt  Chloe,  Eliza,  and 
the  rest  of  them,  and  governed  either  by  a  Legree 
or  a  Saint  Claire,  who  lived  on  a  veranda  covered 
with  luxuriant  vines  and  shaded  by  magnolia- 
groves,  where  Eva  flitted  about  in  a  white  frock 
and  long,  golden-brown  ringlets. 

She  did  not  in  the  least  know  what  the  war  was 
about,  but  she  could  not  help  sympathizing  with 
the  South  because  magnolias  grew  there,  and  peo- 
ple dressed  in  white  sat  on  verandas  covered  with 
vines.  Also,  there  were  so  many  roses.  How 
could  one  help  loving  a  place  where  there  were 
so  many  roses?  When  she  realized  that  the 
freedom  from  slavery  of  the  Uncle  Toms  and 
Aunt  Chloes  and  Elizas  was  involved,  she  felt 


238     77ie   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

the  situation  a  strained  one.  It  was  impossible 
not  to  wish  the  poor  slaves  to  be  freed — the  story 
itself  demanded  it.  One  wept  all  through  "  Uncle 
Tom's  Cabin  "  because  they  had  not  their  "free- 
dom," and  were  sold  away  from  their  wives  and 
children,  and  beaten  and  hunted  with  blood- 
hounds ;  but  the  swarms  of  them  singing  and 
speaking  negro  dialect  in  the  plantations  were 
such  a  picturesque  and  lovable  feature  of  the 
Story  ;  and  it  was  so  unbearable  to  think  of  the 
plantations  being  destroyed,  the  vine-covered  ve- 
randas disappearing,  and  the  magnolias  bloom- 
ing no  more  to  shade  the  beautiful  planters  in 
Panama  hats  and  snow-white  linen.  She  was  so 
attached  to  planters,  and  believed  them  all — ex- 
cept the  Legrees — to  be  graceful  and  picturesque 
creatures. 

But  it  seemed  that  the  war  prevented  their 
sitting  on  their  verandas  sipping  iced  juleps 
through  straws,  while  their  plantations  brought 
forth  cotton. 

Factory  after  factory  closed,  thousands  of  oper- 
atives were  out  of  work,  there  was  a  Cotton  Fam- 
ine. The  rich  people  were  being  ruined,  the  poor 
were  starving,  there  was  no  trade.  The  ware- 
houses began  to  feel  it,  the  large  shops  and  the 
small  ones,  more  or  less  directly ;  all  Manchester 
prosperity  depended  upon  Cotton,  and  as  there 
was  no  Cotton  there  was  no  money. 


Christopher   Columbus 


239 


"  If  the  war  in  America  were  only  over,"  every- 
body said. 

The  stones  of  the  starving  operatives  became 
as  terrible  as  the  stories  from  America.  Side  by 
side  with  accounts  of  battles  there  were,  in  the 
newspapers,  accounts  of  the  "  Lancashire  Dis- 
tress," as  it  was  called.  Funds  were 
raised  by  kind-hearted  people  in 
all  sorts  of  places  to  give  aid  to 
the  suffering  creatures.  There 
were  Soup  Kitchens  estab- 
lished, and  pitiful  tales  were 
told  of  the  hundreds  of  hol- 
low-eyed, ravenous  men 
arid  women  and  chil- 
dren w  h  o  crowded 
about  their  doors. 

"  If  t'  war  i'  'Merica 
ud  coom  to  an  eend," 
they  said  among  themselves, 
"  we  shouldna  aw  be  clemmin."     And 
it  was  not  only  the  operatives  who  suffered, 
all  classes  were  involved  as  the  months  went  on. 

Little  girls  and  boys  began  to  say  to  each 
other : 

"  We  can't  go  to  Wales  this  summer.  Papa 
says  he  can't  afford  it.  There  are  so  many  of  us 
and  it  takes  such  a  lot  of  money.  It's  the  war  in 
America  that  makes  him  feel  poor." 


240    The   One  I  Kne'tO  the  Best  of  All 

Or, 

"  The  Blakes  are  not  going  to  have  a  Christmas 
party.  Mr.  Blake  has  lost  money  through  the 
war  in  America." 

Or  more  awe-inspiring  still : 

"  Do  you  know,  Mr.  Hey  wood  is  a  bankrupt. 
The  war  in  America  has  ruined  his  business,  and 
he  has  to  close  his  warehouse." 

Even  Mamma  began  to  look  harassed  and  anx- 
ious. She  had  neither  a  factory  nor  a  warehouse, 
but  she  also  had  her  difficulties  and  losses.  Poor 
gentle  and  guileless  little  lady,  she  was  all  unfit  to 
contend  with  a  harsh,  sharp,  sordid  world.  She 
had  tried  to  be  business-like  and  practical,  because, 
poor  Papa  being  gone,  there  were  the  three  little 
girls  to  be  taken  care  of  and  the  boys  to  be  given 
a  career  in  life.  Sometimes  the  Small  Person 
found  her  at  her  dressing-table  taking  off  her  lit- 
tle black  bonnet  with  gentle  trembling  hands  and 
with  tears  in  the  blue  eyes  "  Poor  Papa '  had 
thought  like  Amy  Robsart's  and  Jeanie  Deans's. 

"  Is  there  anything  the  matter,  Mamma?"  she 
would  ask. 

"  Yes,  dear,"  Mamma  would  answer  tremblingly. 
"  I  have  a  great  deal  to  be  anxious  about.  I  am 
afraid  I  am  not  a  very  good  business  woman,  and 
so  many  things  go  wrong.  If  I  only  had  poor 
Papa  to  advise  me-  - ;  "  and  the  soft,  deprecat- 
ing voice  would  break. 


CJiri stop  her   Columbus  241 

"Don't,  don't  be  low-spirited,  Mamma,"  the 
Small  Person  would  say,  with  a  tremor  in  her 
own  voice.  "  It  will  all  come  right  after  a 
while." 

"  Oh,  my  dear,"  Mamma  would  exclaim,  at  once 
tried  and  worn  out,  "  nothing  will  ever  come  right 
until  this  dreadful  war  is  over  in  America." 

If  this  were  a  record  of  incidents,  many  might 
be  recorded  of  this  time.  But  it  is  only  a  record 
of  the  principal  events  which  influenced  the  men- 
tal life  of  a  Small  Person. 

There  came  at  last  a  time  when  the  war  was 
ended,  and  there  was  a  pathetic  story  of  the  first 
bales  of  cotton  being  met  by  a  crowd  of  hunger- 
and  trouble-worn  factory  operatives  with  sobs  and 
tears,  and  cries  of  rapturous  welcome — and  of  one 
man — perhaps  a  father  who  had  sat  by  a  fireless 
hearth,  broken  of  spirit  and  helpless,  while  his 
young  swarm  cried  for  bread — a  poor  gaunt  fel- 
low who,  lifting  his  hat,  with  tears  running  down 
his  cheeks,  raised  his  voice  in  the  Doxology,  one 
after  another  joining  in,  until  the  whole  mass  sang, 
in  one  great  swelling  chorus : 

"  Praise  God,  from  whom  all  blessings  flow  ; 
Praise  Him,  all  creatures  here  below ; 
Praise  Him  above,  ye  Heavenly  Host ; 
Praise  Father,  Son,  and  Holy  Ghost." 

The  Small  Person  heard  this  story  with  a  large 
16 


242     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

lump  in  her  throat.  She  felt  that  it  meant  so 
much,  and  that  there  must  have  been  strange,  sor- 
rowful things  going  on  in  the  cottages  in  the  Back 
Streets. 

It  was  after  she    had   heard    it  that  the  great 


/  /'t      -vurn  /  .'j.         ,t  Jr.'','    •  ^>       v 

„,>  :l»    OLfffJI r^n  ..*,*•  6.    £•?»    *    ,1T    Ji"      •    r. 


event  occurred.  She  entered  a  room  one  morn- 
ing to  find  Mamma  and  the  two  boys  evidently 
discussing  with  unusual  excitement  a  letter  with 
a  foreign  post-mark. 

"  It  seems  so  sudden  !  "  said  Mamma,  in  rather 
an  agitated  voice. 


Christopher   Columbus  243 

"  It  would  be  a  great  lark,"  said  one  of  the  boys. 
"  I  should  like  it !  r 

"  I  don't  think  I  could  ever  make  up  my  mind 
to  leave  England ! '  fluttered  Mamma.  "  It 
seems  such  a  long  way  ! ' 

The  Small  Person  looked  from  one  to  the 
other. 

"  What  is  a  long  way  ?  '  she  asked.  "  What 
are  you  talking  about,  Mamma  ?  ' 

Mamma  looked  at  her,  and  her  gentle  face 
wore  an  almost  frightened-like  expression. 

"  America  !  "  she  said,  "  America  ! ' 

"  America  ! '  exclaimed  the  Small  Person,  with 
wide-opened  eyes.  "  What  about  America  ?  ' 

"  We're  going  there,"  cried  her  younger 
brother,  who  was  given  to  teasing  her.  "  The 
whole  job  lot  of  us  !  I  say,  isn't  it  a  lark  ! ' 

"  My  dear,  don't  talk  so  thoughtlessly ! '  said 
Mamma.  "  I  have  had  a  letter  from  your  Uncle 
John,  in  America.  He  thinks  it  would  be  a  good 
thing  for  us  to  go  there.  He  believes  he  could 
find  openings  for  the  boys." 

"  Oh  ! '  gasped  the  Small  Person,  "  America  ! 
Do  you  —  do  you  think  you  will  go  ?  Oh, 
Mamma,"  with  sudden  rapture — "  do — do  !  ' 

It  seems  so   incredibly  delightful !     To   go  to 
America  !     The  land  of  "  Uncle  Tom's  Cabin ! ' 
Perhaps  to  see  plantations  and  magnolias  !     To 
be   attended  by   Aunt   Chloes  and  Topsys !     To 


244     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

make  a  long  voyage — to  cross  a  real  Atlantic 
Ocean — in  a  ship  which  was  not  the  Green  Arm- 
Chair  ! 

The  real  events  of  her  life  had  been  so  simple 
and  its  boundaries  had  been  so  limited.  From 
the  Back  Garden  of  Eden  to  the  Square,  and 
from  the  Square  to  the  nearest  mild  sea-side 
town,  which  seemed  to  be  made  up  of  a  Pier, 
bathing-machines,  lodgings,  and  shrimps  for  tea, 
these  were  her  wildest  wanderings.  The  inhabi- 
tants of  the  Square  were  not  given  to  travel. 
The  Best  Friend  had  spent  a  summer  in  Scot- 
land, and  the  result  of  searching  cross-examina- 
tion as  to  her  sojourn  in  this  foreign  land  had 
seemed  to  give  the  whole  flavor  of  Sir  Walter 
Scott.  She  had  sat  by  a  "  loch/'  and  she  had 
heard  people  speak  Gaelic,  which  she  had  found 
an  obstacle  to  fluent  interchange  of  opinion. 
The  Small  Person  had  once  seen  a  very  little 
girl  who  was  said  to  have  come  from  America. 
She  had  longed  to  talk  to  her  and  find  out  what 

o 

it  was  like  to  live  in  America — what  America 
was  like,  what  it  was  like  to  cross  the  Atlantic 
Ocean.  Her  craving  was  to  find  out  all  about 
America — to  have  it  summed  up  as  it  were  with 
definite  clearness.  But  the  very  little  girl  was 
only  five  years  old,  and  she  was  not  an  intelli- 
gent little  girl,  and  did  not  seem  to  regard  herself 
as  a  foreign  product,  or  to  know  that  America 


Christopher   Columbus 


245 


was  foreign  and  so  intensely  interesting1.  But 
the  Small  Person  looked  upon  her  with  defer- 
ence and  yearning,  and  watched  her  from  afar, 
being  rather  surprised  that  she  did  not  seem  to 
know  how  almost  weirdly  fascinating  she  was. 

And  now  to  think  that  there  was  a  possibility 
-even  a  remote 
one  -  -  that  she 
might  go  to 
America  her- 
self ! 

"  Oh,  Mamma, 
please  do,  please 
do  /  '  she  said 
again  and  again, 
in  the  days  that 
followed. 

The  Boys  re- 
garded the  pros- 
pect with  rapt- 
ure. To  them 
it  meant  wild 
adventure  of  ev- 
ery description.  They  were  so  exhilarated  that 
they  could  talk  of  nothing  else,  and  began  to 
bear  about  them  a  slight  suggestion  of  being  of 
the  world  of  the  heroes  of  Captain  Mayne  Reid 
and  Fenimore  Cooper.  They  frequently  referred 
to  the  "Deerslayer"  and  the  "  Last  of  the  Mohi- 


"A   . 


'lh 


246     The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

cans,"  and  brought  in  interesting  details  gath- 
ered from  "  a  fellow  I  know,  who  comes  from 
New  York."  Certain  descriptions  of  a  magnifi- 
cent thoroughfare  known  as  Broadway  impressed 
the  Small  Person  immensely.  She  thought  that 
Broadway  was  at  least  half  a  mile  wide,  and 
that  before  the  buildings  adorning  it  Bucking- 
ham Palace  and  Windsor  Castle  must  sink  into 
utter  insignificance — particularly  a  place  called 
A.  T.  Stewart's.  These  opinions  were  founded 
upon  the  statements  of  the  "fellow  who  came 
from  New  York." 

It  really  was  a  delightfully  exciting  time. 
The  half-awed  rapture  of  hearing  the  possible 
prospect  talked  over  by  Mamma  and  the  Uncles 
and  Aunts,  the  revelation  one  felt  one  was  mak- 
ing in  saying  to  an  ordinary  boy  or  girl,  "  Do 
you  know  that  perhaps  we  are  going  to  Amer- 
ica ! '  There  was  thrill  enough  for  a  lifetime 

•     •  j_ 
in  it. 

And  when  at  last  Mamma  "  and  the  Aunts 
and  Uncles  and  all  the  relations  and  friends ' 
had  decided  the  matter,  and  everybody  went  to 
bed  knowing  that  they  were  going  to  America, 
and  that  everything  was  to  be  sold  and  that  the 
Atlantic  was  to  be  crossed,  a  new  world  seemed 
to  be  looming  up,  and  the  Small  Person  in  the 
midst  of  her  excitement  had  some  rather  queer 
little  feelings  and  lay  awake  staring  in  the  dark- 


Christopher   Columbus  247 

ness  and  wondered  who  would  get  the  Green 
Arm-Chair  and  the  Nursery  Sofa. 

And  then  came  greater  excitement  still. 
There  seemed  such  thousands  of  things  to  be 
done  and  such  a  sense  of  intoxicating  novelty  in 
the  air.  Everybody  was  so  affectionate  and 
kind,  and  staying  with  a  family  of  cousins 
while  the  house  was  disposed  of  seemed  the 
most  delightful  rollicking  thing.  Two  families 
in  one  house  filled  it  to  overflowing  and  pro- 
duced the  most  hilarious  results.  There  was 
laughing  nearly  all  night,  and  darting  in  and  out 
on  errands  and  visits  all  day,  there  was  a  buy- 
ing of  things,  and  disposing  of  things,  the  see- 
ing friends,  the  bidding  good-by,  and  somehow 
through  it  all  that  delicious  sense  of  adventure 
and  expectation  and  wild,  young,  good  spirits 
and  fun. 

And  this  all  reached  a  climax  in  an  excited, 
entrancing  journey  to  Liverpool,  with  two  rail- 
road carriages  full  of  cousins,  with  an  aunt  or  so 
in  attendance.  Then  there  was  a  night  in  Liver- 
pool, in  which  it  was  almost  impossible  to  sleep 
at  all  because  there  was  so  much  to  be  talked 
over  in  bed,  and  the  next  morning  was  so  thrill- 
ingly  near  and  at  the  same  time  so  unbearably 
far  away. 

And  when  it  came  at  last  there  came  with  it 
the  sending  away  to  the  ship  of  cases  and  trunks, 


248     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 


the  bundling  into  cabs  of  all  the  cousins,  with 
final  packages  of  oranges  and  lemons  and  all  sorts 
of  remedies  and  resources,  the  tremulously  de- 
lightful crowding  on  the  wharf,  the  sight  of  the 
great  ship,  the  nervous  ecstasy  of  swarming  upon 
it,  exploring,  exclaiming,  discovering,  glancing 

over  the  groups  of  fellow- 
passengers     and      sin- 
gling out  those  who 
looked     interesting. 
And     then,     while 
the   excitement 
was  at  the  high- 
est, there  came 
the  ringing  of 
the  fateful  bell, 
and   the  Small 
Person  felt  her 
heart   give    a 
curious     wild 
thump      and 
strange  elec- 
tric thrills  run 
down  into  her 
fingers. 

Suddenly 
she  felt  as  if  too 
much  was  hap- 
pening all  at 


Christopher   Columbus  249 

once — as  if  things  were  woful.  She  wanted  to  go 
to  America — yes,  but  everybody  seemed  to  have 
his  eyes  filled  with  tears,  people  were  clinging  to 
each  other's  hands,  shaking  hands  fiercely,  clasped 
in  each  other's  arms,  the  people  in  the  groups 
about  her  were  all  agitated,  Mamma  was  being 
embraced  by  the  aunts,  with  tears,  the  cousins 
made  farewell  clutches,  their  eyes  suddenly  full 
of  tears. 

"  Good-by,  good-by  ! '  everyone  was  saying. 
"  Good-by.  I  hope  you'll  be  happy  !  Oh  !  it's  so 
strange  to  see  you  go  !  We  shall  so  miss  you  !  ' 
The  Small  Person  kissed  and  was  kissed  with 
desperate  farewell  fervor.  People  had  not  then 
begun  to  make  summer  voyages  from  America  to 
England  every  year.  Going  to  America  was 
going  to  another  world — a  world  which  seemed 
divided  from  quiet  simple  English  homes  almost 
by  the  gulf  of  Eternity. 

"  Oh  !  Good-by,  good-by,"  she  cried,  quite  pas- 
sionately. "  I  wish  you  were  all  going  with 
us  !  " 

A  friend  of  an  older  cousin  was  of  the  par- 
ty. He  was  a  nice  fellow  she  had  known  from 
childhood.  Because  he  was  nice  enough  to  be 
trusted,  she  had  given  him  her  little  dog,  not 
knowing  she  might  have  taken  it  with  her. 

He  was  the  last  to  shake  hands  with  her. 
He  looked  rather  nervous  and  deeply  moved. 


250    The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 


"  Good-by,"  he   said.     "  I  hope  you 
will  like  America." 

"  Good-by,"  she  said,  looking  at 
him  through  tears.  "  You- -I  know 
you'll  be  good  to  Flora." 

"  Yes,"  he  answered,  "  I'll  be  good 
to  Flora." 

And  after  looking  at  her  a  second 
he  seemed  to  decide  that  she  was 
still  sufficiently  a  little  girl  to  be 
kissed,  and  he  kissed  her  wet  cheek 

affectionately  and 
walked  away  with  an 
evident  effort  to 
maintain  a  decided 
air.  And  when  the 
ship  began  to  move 
slowly  away  he  stood 
with  the  aunts  and 
cousins  on  the  wharf, 
and  they  all  waved 
their  handkerchiefs, 
and  the  Small  Per- 
son leaned  upon  the 

deck-rail,  with  tears  running  down    her   cheeks, 
and  said  to  herself,  under  her  breath, 

"Oh,    dear!    oh,    dear!      Noiv    I'm    going    to 
America." 


CHAPTER  XIV. 

The  Dryad  Days 

THERE  were  many  of  them  so  beautiful- -so 
newly,  strangely  beautiful — that  words  seem  poor 
things  to  try  and  describe  them  with.  Words  are 
always  poor  things.  One  only  uses  them  because 
one  has  nothing  else.  There  is  a  wide,  wide  dis- 
tance— a  distance  which  is  more  than  a  matter  of 
mere  space — between  a  great  murky,  slaving, 
manufacturing  town  in  England,  and  mountains 
and  forests  in  Tennessee — forests  which  seem  end- 
lessly deep,  mountains  covered  with  their  depths 
of  greenness,  their  pines  and  laurels,  swaying  and 
.blooming,  vines  of  wild  grape  and  scarlet  trumpet- 
'flower  swaying  and  blooming  among  them,  tangled 
with  the  branches  of  sumach  and  sassafras,  and  all 
things  with  branches  held  out  to  be  climbed  over 
and  clung  to  and  draped. 

To  have  lived  under  the  shadow  of  the  factory 
chimneys,  to  have  looked  up  at  the  great,  soft, 
white  clouds  and  fleecy,  floating  islands,  always 
seeing  them  somewhat  tarnished,  as  it  were,  with 
the  yellowness  of  the  chimney -smoke,  to  have 


252     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

picked  one's  daisies  and  buttercups  in  the  public 
park,  always  slightly  soiled  with  the  tiny  dots  of 
black — the  soft  drift  of  "  smuts '  which  never 
ceased  falling — all  this  is  an  excellent  preparation 
for  rapture,  when  one  is  brought  face  to  face  with 
Dryad  haunts,  and  may  live  Dryad  days. 

After  the  passing  of  the  years  in  the  Back  Gar- 
den of  Eden  the  Small  Person  had  always  been 
so  accustomed  to  the  ever-falling  little  rain  of 
"smuts  "  that  it  had  become  an  accepted  feature 
of  existence.  They  fell  upon  one's  features,  and 
one  of  the  gentle  offices  of  courtesy  was  to  remove 
them  from  beloved  and  intimate  cheeks  or  noses, 
and  delicately  direct  the  attention  of  mere  ac- 
quaintances to  their  presence  and  exact  situation. 
They  made  spots  upon  one's  hat-ribbons,  and  dis- 
figured one's  best  frock,  and  it  occurred  to  no  one 
to  touch  anything  or  rest  against  it  without  pre- 
vious examination.  In  fact,  one  was  so  accustomed 
to  their  presence  that  the  thought  of  resenting  it 
rarely  intruded  itself,  and  one  scarcely  realized 
that  there  existed  people  who  were  not  so  rained 
upon.  The  Small  Person  had  always  felt  it  sad, 
however,  that  the  snow — even  the  pure,  untrodden, 
early  morning  snow- -was  spoiled  so  soon  by  the 
finer  snow  of  black  which  fell  upon  its  fair  surface 
and  speckled  it.  One  of  the  most  exciting  nursery 
experiments  in  winter  had  been  to  put  a  cupful  of 
milk,  sweetened  with  nursery  brown  sugar,  onto  the 


The  Dryad  Days  253 

window-sill  outside,  with  the  thrilling  expectation 
that  it  would  freeze  and  become  ice-cream.  This 
was  always  tried  when  it  snowed — and  one  could 
get  the  milk  and  sugar ;  but  as  Manchester  weather 
was  rarely  very  cold,  the  mixture  never  froze,  and 
if  it  had  done  so,  it  would  never  have  become  ice- 
cream, or  anything  more  nearly  resembling  it  than 
pale-blue  skimmed  milk  and  brown  sugar  would 
make.  There  had  been  rare  occasions  when  a  thin 
coating  of  ice  had  formed  upon  the  top  of  the 
preparation,  and  been  devoured  with  joy-  -but  it 
usually  remained  in  a  painfully  sloppy  condition, 
and  was  covered  with  a  powder  of  fine  soot.  And 
when  in  despair  one  took  it  in  and  disposed  of  it 
with  a  spoon,  with  an  effort  to  regard  it  as  a  lux- 
ury, because  if  it  had  frozen  it  would  have  been 
ice-cream — the  flavor  of  smoke  in  it  was  always 
its  strongest  feature.  This  was  an  actual  trial  to 
the  Small  Person,  because  it  interfered  with  the 
pretence  that  it  was  ice-cream.  It  really  was  so 
horribly  smoky.  Everything  had  been  more  or 
less  smoky  all  through  her  childhood.  And  she 
had  an  absolute  passion  for  the  country.  She 
adored  the  stories  in  which  people  had  parks  or 
gardens,  or  lived  in  rustic  cottages,  or  walked  in 
forests,  or  across  moors,  or  climbed  "  blue  hills." 
She  revelled  in  the  thoughts  of  bluebells  and 
honeysuckles,  and  harebells  and  wild  roses.  She 
"  pretended '  them  in  the  Square  itself.  And 


254     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

this,  by  the  way,  recalls  a  thrilling  incident  which 
is  perhaps  sufficiently  illustrative  to  be  worth 
recording. 

One  or  two  of  the  large  vacant  houses — perhaps 
all  of  them — had  once  had  large  gardens  behind 
them.  Years  of  neglect  and  factory  chimney 
smoke  had  transformed  them  into  cindery  des- 
erts, where  weeds  grew  rank  in  patches  where 
anything  could  grow  at  all,  and  where,  despite 
the  high  brick  walls  surrounding  them,  all  sorts 
of  rubbish  accumulated,  and  made  both  weeds 
and  bareness  more  hideous,  and  their  desolate- 
ness  more  complete.  Usually  the  doors  of  en- 
trance were  kept  locked,  and  there  was  no  oppor- 
tunity of  even  looking  in  from  the  outside.  This 
fact  the  Small  Person  had  always  found  enchant- 
ing, because  it  suggested  mystery.  So  long  as 
one  could  not  cross  the  threshold,  one  could 
imagine  all  sorts  of  beautifulness  hidden  by  the 
walls  too  high  to  be  looked  over,  the  little  green 
door  which  was  never  unclosed.  It  made  her 
wish  so  that  she  could  get  inside. 

For  years  she  never  did  so,  but  at  last  there 
came  a  rumor  that  the  big  houses  were  to  be 
pulled  down,  to  make  room  for  smaller  ones,  and 
then  it  was  whispered  about  among  the  Square 
children  that  the  little  green  door  in  the  high 
wall  which  surrounded  the  garden  behind  the 
big  house,  called  for  some  mysterious  reason 


The  Dryad  Days  255 

"  Page's  Hall,"  had  been  opened,  and  some  bold 
spirit  had  walked  in  and  even  walked  out  again. 

And  so  there  arrived  an  eventful  hour  when  the 
Small  Person  herself  went  in — passed  through  the 
enchanted  door  and  stood  within  the  mysterious 
precincts  looking  around  her. 

If  she  had  seen  it  as  it  really  was  she  would 
probably  have  turned  and  fled.  But  she  did  not 

-she  saw  nothing  as  it  was — Grace  au  Bon  Dieu  ! 
She  saw  a  Garden.  At  least  it  had  been  a  Gar- 
den once — and  there  were  the  high  brick  walls 
around  it  -  -  and  the  little  door  so  long  unop- 
ened, and  once  there  had  been  flowers  and  trees 
in  it;  they  had  really  bloomed  and  been  green 
and  shady  there,  though  it  was  so  long  ago.  The 
charming  treasure  of  her  life  had  been  the  story 
that  once  the  Square  itself  had  been  an  orna- 
mental lake  with  swans  and  lilies  in  it. 

So  she  wandered  about  in  a  dream — "  pretend- 
ing." That  changed  it  all.  The  heaps  of  earth 
and  rubbish  were  mounds  of  flowers,  the  rough, 
coarse  docks  were  lilies  with  broad  leaves,  every 
poor  green  thing  struggling  for  life  in  the  hard 
earth  had  a  lovely  name.  They  were  green  things 
at  least,  and  she  loved  them  for  that.  They  grew 

-just  as  real  flowers  might  have  done — in  a  place 
which  had  once  been  a  Garden. 

All  her  little  life  she  had  felt  a  sort  of  curious 
kinship  with  things  which  grew-  -the  trodden 


256     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

grass  in  the  public  park,  the  soiled  daisies  and 
buttercups.  She  had  lived  among  her  bricks  and 
mortar  and  smoke  with  the  yearnings  of  a  little 
Dryad  underlying  all  her  pleasures.  In  the 
Square  real  trees  and  flowers  and  thick  green 
ferns  and  grass  seemed  joys  so  impossible. 

She  walked  about  slowly.  "  Pretending'  with 
all  her  power.  She  bent  down  and  looked  the 
weeds  in  their  faces  and  touched  them  tenderly. 
They  were  such  poor  things,  but  in  some  places 
they  grew  quite  thickly  together  and  covered  the 
ugly  barrenness  of  the  earth  with  a  coarse,  simple 
greenery  which  represented  vaguely  to  her  mind 
something  which  was  quite  beautiful.  She  felt 
grateful  to  them. 

"  Suppose  they  were  roses  and  pansies  and  lilies 
and  violets,"  she  said  to  herself.  "  How  beautiful 
it  would  be  !  " 

And  then  her  dear  Angel — the  beloved  Story- 
laid  its  kind,  beautiful  hand  upon  her,  and  as  she 
stood  among  the  docks  and  thistles,  if  an  older 
person  could  have  looked  on  -  -  understanding- 
surely  he  would  have  seen  light  and   color  and 
glow  come  into  her  child  face. 

"  You  are  roses !  "  she  said.     "  You  arc  violets- 
and  lilies — and  hyacinths  and  daffodils  and  snow- 
drops !     You  arc  !  ' 

She  had  reached  a  mound  and  was  standing  on 
it.  Beside  it,  and  between  herself  and  the  garden 


The  Dryad  Days  257 

wall,  there  was  a  sort  of  broad,  deep  ditch  which 
seemed  to  have  no  reason  for  existence  and  of- 
fered no  explanation  of  itself.  The  mound  had 
probably  been  formed  by  the  piling  up  of  the 
earth  and  rubbish  dug  out  and  thrown  up.  The 
green  things  grew  over  the  mound  and  were  rank 
even  in  the  ditch  itself,  scrambling  down  its  ugly 
sides  and  half  filling  it.  She  looked  into  this  ditch 
and  was  pleased  with  it. 

"  This  is  the  castle  Moat,"  she  said.  "  It  is  a 
Moat — and  these  are  the  castle  gardens." 

The  Moat  enraptured  her.  It  made  all  things 
possible.  She  rambled  about  building  around  it. 

"  There  is  a  Bower  here,"  she  said,  in  the  very 
low  voice  she  reserved  for  such  occasions.  "  It  is  a 
Bower  covered  with  roses.  There  are  a  great 
many  trees — great  big  trees  with  thick  trunks  and 
broad,  broad  branches.  There  are  oaks  and 
beeches  and  chestnut-trees  and  they  spread  their 
boughs  across  the  avenues  from  side  to  side. 

o 

There  are  Avenues.  They  are  arched  over  with 
green.  There  are  banks  and  banks  of  flow- 
ers— banks  of  primroses  and  banks  of  violets." 
She  was  always  lavish.  "  There  are  bluebells- 
and  thick  green  grass  and  emerald  velvet  moss, 
and  ferns  and  ferns.  There  are  fountains  and  Grot- 
toes— and  everything  is  carpeted  with  flowers." 

It  was  all  as  abundant  as  Edith  Somerville's 
hair. 

17 


258     The   One  I  Knciv  the  Best  of  All 

And  the  Garden — the  long  dead  Garden — the 
poor  old,  forgotten,  deserted  Garden !  Did  it 
know  that  suddenly  it  had  bloomed  again — as 
it  had  never  bloomed  before,  even  half  a  century 
ago  in  its  palmiest  days  ? 

It  would  be  beautiful  to  believe  that  it  did,  and 
that  some  strange,  lovely  struggle  and  thrill  so 
moved  it,  that  Nature  herself  helped  it  to  one 
last  effort  to  live — expressing  itself  in  a  myste- 
rious and  wonderful  thing.  If  this  was  not  so, 
how  did  a  flower  grow  there  ? 

It    seemed    wonderful    to  the    Small    Person- 
though  it  was  such  a  tiny  thing — such  a  common 
thing  in  some  places  that  there  are  country-bred 
people  who  would  not   have  stooped    to    pick  it 
up.     But  she  had  never  seen  one. 

She  was  bending  over  the  green  things  on  the 
mound  and  telling  them  again  that  they  were 
flowers — when  she  saw  a  tiny  red  speck  close 
to  the  ground. 

It  was  scarcely  more  than  a  speck — and  a  flow- 
er was  such  a  wildly  improbable  thing  that  she 
could  not  believe  her  eyes. 

"  It's  a  flower  !  '  she  gasped.  "  A  tiny  red 
thing!'  and  she  knelt  among  the  weeds  and 
gloated  on  it.  "  It's  a  real  flower ! "  she  said, 


"  gr oiving  ! 


She  did  not  know  what  it  was.      She  took  it  up 
as   if  it    had   been    a    holy    thing.     Only    a    little 


The  Dryad  Days 


259 


Dryad,  who  had  spent  her  life  in  the  Square 
looking  out  at  the  slates  for  rain,  could  have  felt 
as  she  did.  She  looked  at  it  closer  and  closer, 
and  then  remembered  something  she  had  read  in 
some  poem  of  rural  scenes,  the  name  of  some 


260     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

little  thing-  which  was  tiny  and  red,  and  grew  low 
and  close  to  the  earth.  It  did  not  really  matter 
whether  she  was  quite  right  or  not — she  could  not 
know — but  she  loved  the  name  and  hoped  it  was 
the  real  one. 

"  It  is  a  Pimpernel,"  she  said,  "  a  scarlet  Pim- 
pernel. It  must  be!'  And  she  ended  with  a 
wild  little  shout  to  the  other  children  who  were 
exploring  within  hail. 

"Come  here!'  she  cried.  "Come  here,  and 
see  what  I  have  found.  I  have  found  a  Pimpernel 
-a  scarlet  Pimpernel  like  those  that  grow  in  the 
fields!" 

*•••••• 

And  from  a  life  where  a  growing  green  thing 
was  a  marvel  and  a  mystery,  and  a  pimpernel 
an  incongruous  impossibility,  she  went  into  the 
Dryad  da3rs.  They  began  with  a  journey  of  two 
weeks  after  land  was  reached,  with  the  banks 
of  the  St.  Lawrence,  with  days  of  travel  through 
Canadian  forests,  with  speechless,  rapt  wanderings 
on  the  borders  of  a  lake  like  a  sea,  with  short 
rests  at  cities  which  seemed  new  and  foreign, 

o 

though  they  were  populated  with  people  who 
spoke  English,  and  which  ended  at  last  in  a 
curious  little  village — one  unpaved  street  of  wood- 
en houses,  some  painted  white  and  some  made  of 
logs,  but  with  trees  everywhere,  and  forests  and 
hills  shutting  it  in  from  the  world. 


The  Dryad  Days  261 

Then  she  lived  in  the  Story.  Quiet  English 
people,  who,  driven  by  changes  of  fortune,  wan- 
dered thousands  of  miles  and  lived  without  ser- 
vants in  a  log  cabin,  were  a  Story  themselves. 
The  part  of  the  house  which  was  built  of  logs 
enchanted  her.  It  was  quite  like  Fenimore 
Cooper, .  but  that  there  were  no  Indians.  She 
yearned  inexpressibly  for  the  Indians.  There 
must  have  been  Indians  some  time,  and  there 
must  be  some  left  in  the  forests.  This  was  what 
she  hoped  and  tried  to  find  out  about.  It  is  pos- 
sible her  inquiries  into  the  subject  sometimes 
rather  mystified  the  owners  of  the  white  wooden 
houses,  to  whom  Indians  seemed  less  thrilling. 
Occasionally  an  Indian  or  two  were  seen  she 
found,  but  they  were  neither  blood-thirsty  nor 
majestic.  They  did  not  build  wigwams  in  the 
forests,  or  wear  moccasons  and  wampum  ;  they 
did  not  say  "  The  words  of  the  Pale  Face  make 
warm  the  heart  of  the  White  Eagle." 

"  They  gener'ly  come  a  beggin'  somepn  good 
to  eat,"  one  of  the  white  house-owners  said  to 
her.  "  Vittles,  or  a  chaw  er  terbacker  or  a  dram 
er  whiskey  is  what  they  re  arter.  An'  he'll  lie  an 
steal,  a  Injun  will,  as  long  as  he's  a  Injun.  I 
hain't  no  use  for  a  Injun." 

This  was  not  like  Fenimore  Cooper,  but  she 
persuaded  herself  that  the  people  she  questioned 
had  not  chanced  to  meet  the  right  kind  of  Abo- 


262     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

rigine.  She  preferred  Fenimore  Cooper's,  even 
when  he  wore  his  war-paint  and  was  scalping  the 
Pale  Face — or  rather  pursuing  him  with  that 
intent  without  attaining  his  object.  She  de- 
lighted in  conversation  with  the  natives — the 

O 

real  native,  who  had  a  wonderful  dialect.  As  she 
had  learned  to  speak  Lancashire  she  learned  to 
speak  East  Tennessean  and  North  Carolinian 
and  the  negro  dialect.  Finding  that  her  English 
accent  was  considered  queer  she  endeavored  to 
correct  it  and  to  speak  American.  She  found 
American  interesting  and  rather  liked  it.  That 

<j 

was  part  of  the  Story,  too.  To  use,  herself,  in 
casual  conversation,  the  expressions  she  had 
heard  in  American  stories  related  with  delight  in 
England  was  a  joy.  She  used  to  wonder  what 
the  aunts  and  cousins  and  the  people  in  the 
Square  would  think  if  they  heard  her  say  "  I 
guess,"  and  "  I  reckon,"  if  they  would  be  shocked 
or  if  they  would  think  it  amusing. 

The  Square — the  wet,  shiny  slates — the  soiled 
clouds  and  falling  soot  seemed  more  than  thou- 
sands of  miles  away — it  was  as  if  they  could 
scarcely  have  been  real,  as  if  she  must  have 
dreamed  them.  Because  she  was  really  a  Dryad 
she  felt  no  strangeness  in  the  great  change  in 
her  life.  It  seemed  as  if  she  must  always  have 
lived  with  the  vast  clear  space  of  blue  above 
her,  with  hundreds  of  miles  of  forests  surround- 


The  Dryad  Days  263 

ing  her,  with  hills  on  every  side,  with  that  view 
of  a  certain  far-off  purple  mountain  behind 
which  the  sun  set  after  it  had  painted  such  splen- 
dors in  the  sky.  To  get  up  at  sunrise  and  go 
out  into  the  exquisite  freshness  and  scent  of  earth 
and  leaves,  to  wander  through  the  green  aisles 
of  tall,  broad-leaved,  dew-wet  Indian  corn,  whose 
field  sloped  upward  behind  the  house  to  the 
chestnut-tree  which  stood  just  outside  the  rail 
fence  one  climbed  over  on  to  the  side  of  the  hill, 
to  climb  the  hill  and  wander  into  the  woods 
where  one  gathered  things,  and  sniffed  the  air 
like  some  little  wild  animal,  to  inhale  the  odor 
of  warm  pines  and  cedars  and  fresh  damp  mould, 
and  pungent  aromatic  things  in  the  tall  "  Sage 
grass,"  to  stand  breathing  it  all  in,  one's  whole 
being  enveloped  in  the  perfume  and  warm  fresh 
fragrance  of  it,  one's  face  uplifted  to  the  deep, 
pure  blue  and  the  tops  of  the  pines  swaying  a 
little  before  it — to  hear  little  sounds  breaking  the 
stillness  when  one  felt  it  most — lovely  little 
sounds  of  birds  conversing  with  each  other, 
asking  questions  and  answering  them  and  some- 
times being  sweetly  petulant,  of  sudden  brief 
little  chatters  of  squirrels,  of  lovely  languorous 
cawing  of  crows  high  above  the  tree  tops,  of  the 
warm-sounding  boom  and  drone  of  a  bee  near 
the  ground — strange  as  it  may  seem,  to  do,  to 
feel,  to  see  and  hear  all  this  was  somehow  not 


264     The   One  I  Knew  the  Hest  of  All 

new  to  her.  She  was  not  a  stranger  here — she 
had  been  a  stranger  in  the  Square  when  she  had 
lifted  her  face  to  the  low-hanging,  smoky  clouds, 
talking  to  them,  imploring  them  when  they  would 
make  no  response.  Without  knowing  why — be- 
cause she  was  too  young  to  comprehend — she 
felt  that  she  had  begun  to  be  alive,  and  that  be- 
fore, somehow,  she  had  not  been  exactly  living. 
Though  the  poor  green  things  in  a  smoke  and 
soot-smitten  Sahara  had  moved  her  and  seemed 
to  say  something  vaguely,  though  one  pimpernel 
astray  through  some  miracle  among  the  rubbish 
had  made  her  heart  cry  aloud,  the  full  bounty  of 
all  Nature  poured  out  before  her  in  one  magnifi- 
cent gift  seemed  to  be  something  she  had  always 
known — something  she  must  have  been  waiting 
for  all  through  her  young  years  of  exile — a  na- 
tive land  which  she  could  not  have  been  kept 
away  from  always.  And  the  most  perfectly  raptur- 
ous of  her  moments  always  brought  to  her  a  feel- 
ing that  somehow — in  some  subtle  way — she  was 
part  of  it — part  of  the  trees,  of  the  warm  winds 
and  scents  and  sounds  and  grasses.  This — though 
she  had  not  reached  the  point  of  knowing  it — was 
because  ages  before — dim,  far-off  beautiful  ages 
before,  she  had  been  a  little  Faun  or  Dryad — or 
perhaps  a  swaying  thing  of  boughs  and  leaves 
herself,  but  this  had  been  when  there  had  been 
fair  pagan  gods  and  goddesses  who  found  the 


The  Dryad  Days  265 

fair  earth  beautiful  enough  for  deity  itself.  And 
some  strange  force  had  reincarnated  her  in  the 
Square. 

It  is  worth  mention,  perhaps,  that  here  she 
ceased  to  "  pretend  "  in  the  old  way.  There  was 
no  need  to  "  pretend."  There  were  real  things 
enough.  She  had  laid  the  Doll  aside  reluctantly 
some  time  before — doing  it  gradually — after  some 
effort  at  being  purely  maternal  with  it,  which, 
after  some  tentative  experiment,  was  a  failure, 
because  she  so  loved  the  real,  warm  babies  that 
to  hover  over  a  wax  one  seemed  an  insult  to  her 
being.  She  lived  in  the  woods,  and  she  wrote 
stories  on  slates  and  pieces  of  paper.  But  the 
Story  took  a  new  tone.  Sir  Marmaduke  Max- 
welton  was  less  prominent,  and  the  hair  of  Edith 
Somerville  flowed  less  freely  over  the  pages. 
Hair  and  eyes  seemed  less  satisfying  and  less  nec- 
essary. She  began  to  deal  with  emotions.  She 
found  emotions  interesting  —  and  forests  and 
Autumn  leaves  assisted  them  and  seemed  part  of 
them  somehow,  as  she  was  part  of  the  forests 
themselves.  In  the  Square  she  had  imagined- 
in  the  forests  she  began  to  feel. 

She  lived  in  the  village  long  enough  to  gain  a 
great  deal  of  atmosphere,  and  then  she  went  with 
the  family  to  another  place.  The  new  home  was 
not  very  far  away  from  the  first  one,  and  though 
it  was  within  a  few  miles  of  a  place  large  enough 


266     The   One  I  Knew  tJic  Best  of  All 

to  be  called  a  town,  instead  of  a  village,  it  was 
even  more  sylvan.  This  time  the  house  was  a 
little  white  one  and  she  did  not  deplore  its  not 
being  built  of  logs,  because  she  had  lived  beyond 
the  Fenimore  Cooper  standpoint  and  expected 
neither  Indians  nor  bears.  She  no  longer  regarded 
America  as  foreign,  and  had  attained  a  point  of 
view  quite  different  from  that  of  her  early  years. 

The  house  was  not  at  the  foot  of  a  hill,  in  these 
days  it  was  at  the  top  of  one.  It  was  not  a  very 
high  hill,  and  the  house  was  a  tiny  one,  balanced 
quaintly  on  the  summit,  as  if  some  flood  had  left 
it  there  on  receding. 

"  Noah's  Ark  was  left  like  it  on  Mount  Ararat," 
said  the  Small  Person.  "  Let  us  call  it  Noah's 
Ark,  Mount  Ararat.  Think  how  queer  it  will 
look  on  letters."  So  it  was  called  Noah's  Ark, 
Mount  Ararat,  and  the  address  did  look  queer  on 
letters. 

The  house  was  a  bandbox,  but  the  place  was 
adorable  in  these  days.  One  stood  on  the  little 
porch  of  Noah's  Ark  and  looked  out  over  under- 
growth and  woods  and  slopes  and  hills  which 
ended  in  three  ranges  of  mountains  one  behind 
the  other.  The  farthest  was  the  Alleghanies.  It 
was  at  this  place  that  what  were  most  truly  the 
Dryad  days  were  lived.  There  were  no  neigh- 
bors but  the  woods,  there  was  no  village,  the 
town  was  too  far  away  to  be  visited  often  bv  peo- 


The  Dryad  Days  267 

pie  who  must  walk.     There  was  nothing  to  dis- 
tract one. 

And  the  mountains  always  seemed  to  stand 
silently  on  guard.  They  became  part  of  one's 
life.  When  the  Small  Person  came  out  upon  the 
porch  very  early  in  the  morning  they  were  deep 
purple  and  stood  out  soft  and  clear.  The  sun 
was  rising  from  behind  a  hill  to  the  left,  where 
three  or  four  very  tall  pine-trees  seemed  to  have 
grown  with  a  view  to  adding  to  the  spectacular 
effect  by  outlining  their  feathery  branches  and 
straight,  slender  stems  against  the  pink,  pearl, 
amber,  blue,  apple-green,  daffodil  sky,  growing 
intenser  every  moment  until  the  golden  flood 
leaped  up  above  the  tallest  feathered  pine.  In 
the  middle  of  the  day  they  paled  into  faint  blue 
in  a  haze  of  sunny  light  and  heat,  at  sunset  they 
were  violet  with  touches  of  deep  rose.  The 
Small  Person  began  to  think  of  them  as  of  hu- 
man things.  They  were  great  human  things, 
with  moods  which  changed  and  expressions 
which  came  and  wTent.  She  found  herself  going 
to  look  at  them  at  all  sorts  of  times,  at  different 
phases  of  the  day  or  sky,  to  see  how  they  looked 
now  !  They  had  so  many  expressions — they  al- 
ways seemed  to  be  saying  something — no,  think- 
ing something — but  she  did  not  know  what.  She 
would  have  been  glad  to  understand — but  with 
these  too  she  had  that  instinct  of  kindship — of 


268     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

somehow  being  part  of  their  purple,  their  clear 
dark  outline,  their  dips  and  curves  against  the 
sky — with  these  too !  The  first  morning  that  she 
went  out  and  found  them  covered  with  snow- 
like  ranges  of  piled  white  clouds  lightly  touched 
with  sunrise  pink — she  almost  cried  out  aloud. 

But  it  was  not  only  the  mountains — all  the  near 
things  that  surrounded  and  shut  her  in  were  of 
the  same  world.  She  began  to  ramble  and  ex- 
plore, wandering  about,  and  led  on  step  by  step 
by  the  things  she  saw  until  it  ended  in  her  liter- 
ally living  in  the  open  air. 

About  a  hundred  yards  from  the  house  was  a 
little  thicket  which  was  the  beginning  of  the 
woods.  Sassafras,  sumach,  dogwood,  and  young 
pines  and  cedars  grew  in  the  midst  of  a  thick 
undergrowth  of  blackberry -vines  and  bushes. 
The  slender  but  full-branched  trees  stood  very 
close  together,  and  a  wild  grape-vine  roofed  them 
with  a  tangled  abundance. 

When  she  found  this  place  the  Small  Person 
hungered  to  get  into  the  very  heart  of  it  and  feel 
the  leaves  enclose  her  and  the  vine  sway  about 
her  and  catch  with  tendrils  at  her  hair.  But  that 
was  impossible  then,  because  the  briers  and  un- 
dergrowth were  so  thick  as  to  be  impenetrable. 
For  some  time  it  was  a  longing  unattained. 

It  was  a  chance,  perhaps,  which  caused  it  to  be 
fulfilled.  Some  friend  of  the  brothers,  during:  a 

'  *> 


The  Dryad  Days  269 

visit  of  some  holiday,  was  inspired  to  suggest 
that  an  hour  or  so  of  vigorous  cutting  and  prun- 
ing would  do  wonders  for  this  very  spot,  and  in  a 
valiant  moment  the  idea  was  carried  out. 

The  Small  Person  lived  in  it  for  two  years 
after,  and  it  was  called  the  "  Bower." 

The  walls  of  the  Bower  were  branches  and 
bushes  and  lovely  brambles,  the  ceiling  was 
boughs  bearing  bravely  the  weight  of  the  matted 
vine,  the  carpet  of  it  was  grass  and  pine-needles, 
and  moss.  One  made  one's  way  to  it  through  a 
narrow  path  cleared  between  blackberry  and  wild- 
rose  briers,  one  entered  as  if  through  a  gateway 
between  two  slender  sentinel  sassafras-trees — and 
the  air  one  breathed  inside  smelled  of  things 
subtly  intoxicating — of  warm  pine  and  cedar  and 
grape-vine  blossoms  made  hot  by  the  sun. 

The  Small  Person  was  never  quite  sober  when 
she  lay  full  length  on  the  grass  and  pine-needles 
on  a  Summer  day  and  closed  her  eyes,  dilating 
her  little  nostrils  to  inhale  and  sniff  slowly  the 
breathing  of  these  strange  sweet  things.  She 
was  not  aware  that  she  was  intoxicated,  she  only 
thought  she  was  exquisitely  happy  and  uplifted 
by  a  strange,  still  joy — better  than  anything  else 
in  life — something  thrillingly  near  being  the  Party. 

She  came  to  the  place  so  much,  and  spent  so 
many  hours  there,  lying  on  the  grass,  scribbling 
a  bit  of  a  story,  sewing  a  bit  of  a  seam,  reading, 


270     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

when  she  could  get  a  book — which  was  rarely- 
thinking  out  great  problems  with  her  eyes  open 
or  shut,  and  she  was  so  quiet  that  the  little  living 
things  actually  became  accustomed  to  her,  and 
quite  unafraid.  It  became  one  of  her  pleasures  to 
lie  or  sit  and  watch  a  bird  light  upon  a  low  branch 
quite  near  her  and  sway  there,  twittering  a  little 
to  himself  and  giving  an  occasional  touch  to  his 
feathers,  as  he  made  remarks  about  the  place. 
She  would  not  have  stirred  for  worlds  for  fear  of 
startling  him.  She  used  to  try  to  imagine  what 
he  was  saying  : 

"  Dear  me  !  What  a  charming  place.  So  de- 
lightfully fresh  and  cool  after  one  has  been  flying 
about  in  the  hot  sun.  And  so  secluded  !  Why 
did  not  Rosiebeak  think  of  suggesting  that  I 
should  build  the  nest  here  ?  And  none  of  those 
big,  walking-about  creatures  who  don't  sing- 

And  then,  perhaps,  his  round,  bright,  dark  eye 
fell  upon  her  and  he  made  a  nervous  little  move, 
as  if  he  were  going  to  fly  away,  but  seeing  that 
she  did  not  stir,  reflected  upon  her,  and  then  she 
thought  he  said  : 

"  What  is  it?  It  looks  like  one  of  them,  but  it 
does  not  move  or  make  a  noise,  and  its  eyes  look 
friendly." 

And  then  he  would  gather  courage,  if  he  was  an 
enterprising  bird,  and  hop  onto  a  nearer  twig  and 
examine  her,  making  quick  little  curious  move- 


77ic  Dryad  Days 


271 


ments   with   his  head  and  neck.     After  which  he 
would  probably  fly  away. 

But  she  had  an  idea  that  he  always  came  again 
and  brought  some  member  of  his  family  and  en- 
deavored to  explain  her  to  them  and  tell  them  that 
his    imp  ression 
was     that     she 
would  not  hurt. 
Many  of  them, 
she  was  quite 
sure,  came 


CMffiP! 

¥,  , 


again.  She  believed  she  recognized  them.  And 
they  became  so  used  to  seeing  her  that  they  did 
not  mind  her  in  the  least,  and  had  quarrels  and 
reconciliations,  and  said  unpleasant  things  about 
their  relations,  and  deplored  the  habits  their 
children  were  getting  into,  and  practised  their 
scales  just  as  if  she  had  been  one  of  the  fam- 
ily. 

Squirrels  had  no  objection  to  her,  rabbits  occa- 
sionally came  and  looked,  and  dragon-flies  and 
beetles  regarded  her  as  of  no  consequence  at  all. 


272     The   One  I  Knew  tJie  Best  of  All 

"  They  think  I  am  another  kind  of  little  animal," 
she  used  to  delight  herself  with  thinking — "  an- 
other kind  of  squirrel  or  thrush  or  beetle,  or  a 
new  kind  of  rabbit  they  have  not  seen.  Or  per- 
haps they  think  I  am  a  very  little  cow  without 
horns.  They  don't  think  I  am  a  person,  and  they 
know  I  like  them." 

Some  mornings  she  spent  there  it  would  be  al- 
most impossible  to  describe.  The  air,  the  odors, 
the  sounds  of  insects  and  birds,  the  golden-green 
shade  of  the  interlaced  vines  and  branches,  the 
delicate  shadows  of  the  leaves,  the  faint  rustle  of 
them,  which  only  seemed  to  make  the  stillness 
more  still  and  full  of  meaning,  wakened  in  her  a 
fine,  tender  ecstasy,  which  did  not  seem  to  be  ex- 
actly a  feeling  belonging  to  life  on  earth.  She 
was  always  alone,  and  she  used  to  lie  in  the  gold- 
green  shade  quite  motionless,  with  her  eyes  closed, 
a  curious,  rapt  fancy  in  her  mind. 

"  Somehow,"  she  used  to  think,  "  I  am  not  quite 
in  my  body.  It  is  so  beautiful  that  my  soul  is  try- 
ing to  get  away  like  a  bird.  It  has  got  out  of  my 
body  and  it  is  trying  to  break  loose ;  but  it  is  fast- 
ened with  a  little  slender  cord,  and  that  holds  it. 
It  is  fluttering  and  straining:  because  it  wants  to 

o  o 

fly." 

There  was  even  in  her  mind  a  perfectly  definite 
idea  of  how  high  above  her  body  the  little  soul 
hovered,  straining  to  break  the  cord.  She  fancied 


The  Dryad  Days  273 

it  hovering,  with  the  movement  of  a  poised  hum- 
ming-bird, about  a  yard  above  her  breast- -no 
higher — the  slender  chain  was  only  that  long. 

And  she  used  to  try  to  make  herself  more  and 
more  still,  and  centre  all  her  thoughts  upon  the 
small  lifted  spirit — trying  to  help  it  to  break  the 
chain. 

"  If  it  could  break  it,"  she  thought,  "it  would  fly 
away- -I  don't  know  where — and  I  should  be  dead. 
And  they  would  come  to  the  Bower  to  look  for 
me  at  night  when  I  did  not  come  home,  and  find 
me  lying  here.  And  they  would  think  it  was 
dreadful  and  be  so  sorry  for  me ;  and  nobody 
would  know  that  I  had  only  died  because  I  was  so 
happy  that  my  soul  broke  the  chain." 

If  in  the  young  all  things  not  quite  of  earth  are 
justly  to  be  considered  morbid,  then  this  ecstasy, 
too  subtile  to  be  called  a  mood,  was  a  thing  to  be 
discouraged  ;  but  it  was  an  emotion  all  of  rapture, 
and  was  a  thing  so  delicate  and  strange  that  she 
kept  it  silently  to  herself. 

In  the  life  she  spent  in  wandering  about  the 
woods,  she  became  perfectly  familiar  with  all  their 
resources.  She  was  generally  gathering  flowers. 
The  little  house  was  filled  with  them  to  overflow- 
ing. Her  hands  were  always  filled  as  she  rambled 
from  one  place  to  another.  She  was  always  look- 
ing for  new  ones,  and  it  Avas  not  long  before  she 
knew  exactly  the  spots  of  earth,  of  dry  ness  or  damp- 

iS 


274     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

ness,  of  shade  or  sun,  in  which  each  one  grew. 
She  was  nearly  always  by  herself,  but  she  was 
never  alone  when  she  was  among-  these  intimates  of 
hers.  She  found  it  quite  natural  to  speak  to  them, 
to  bend  down  and  say  caressing  things  to  them, 
to  stoop  and  kiss  them,  to  praise  them  for  their 
pretty  ways  of  looking  up  at  her  as  into  the  eyes  of 
a  friend  and  beloved.  There  were  certain  little 
blue  violets  who  always  seemed  to  lift  up  their 
small  faces  childishly,  as  if  they  were  saying : 

"  Kiss  me  !  Don't  go  by  like  that.  Kiss  me." 
That  was  what  she  imagined  about  them. 

Those  were  lovely  da}s  when  she  found  these 
violets.  They  were  almost  the  very  first  things 
that  came  in  the  Spring.  First  there  was  a  good 
deal  of  rain,  and  when  one  was  getting  very  tired 
of  it  there  would  come  a  lull.  Perhaps  it  was 
only  a  lull,  and  the  sun  only  came  out  and  went 
in  with  capricious  uncertainty.  But  when  the 
lull  came  the  Small  Person  issued  forth.  Every- 
thing was  wet  and  smelled  deliciously  -  -  the 
mould,  the  grass,  the  ferns,  the  trees,  and  bushes. 
She  was  not  afraid  of  the  dampness.  She  was  a 
strong  little  thing,  and  wore  cotton  frocks.  Gen- 
erally she  had  no  hat.  A  hat  seemed  unnecessary 
and  rather  in  the  way.  She  simply  roamed 
about  as  a  little  sheep  or  cow  would  have  roamed 
about,  going  where  an  odor  or  a  color  led  her. 
She  went  through  the  bushes  and  undergrowth, 


The  Dryad  Days  275 

and  as  she  made  her  way  they  shook  rain-drops 
on  her.  As  she  had  not  known  flowers  before, 
and  did  not  know  people  then,  she  did  not  learn 
the  real  names  of  the  flowers  she  gathered.  But 
she  knew  their  faces  and  places  and  ways  as  she 
knew  her  family.  The  very  first  small  flower  of 
all  was  a  delicate,  bounteous  thing-,  which  grew 
in  masses  and  looked  like  a  pale  forget-me-not  on 
a  fragile  stem.  She  loved  it  because  it  was  so 
ready  and  so  free  of  itself,  and  it  meant  that  soon 
the  wet  grass  would  be  blue  with  the  violets 
which  she  loved  beyond  all  else  of  the  Spring  or 
Summer.  She  always  lost  her  head  a  little  when 
she  saw  the  first  of  these  small  things,  but  when, 
after  a  few  days  more  rain,  the  sun  decided  to 
shine  with  warm  softness,  and  things  were  push- 
ing up  through  the  mould  and  bursting  from  the 
branches  and  trunks  of  trees,  and  bluebirds  began 
to  sine:,  and  all  at  once  the  blue  violets  seemed  to 

o ' 

rusk  out  of  the  earth  and  purple  places  every- 
where, she  became  a  little  mad — with  a  madness 
which  was  divine.  She  forgot  she  was  a  Small 
Person  with  a  body,  and  scrambled  about  the 
woods,  forgetting  everything  else  also.  She  knew 
nothing  but  the  violets,  the  buds  of  things,  the 
leaves,  the  damp,  sweet,  fresh  smell.  She  knelt 
clown  recklessly  on  the  wet  grass ;  if  rain  began 
to  fall  she  was  not  driven  indoors  unless  it  fell  in 
torrents.  To  make  one's  way  through  a  wood  on 


276     77ie   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  AIL 

a  hillside  with  hands  full  of  cool,  wet  leaves  and 
flowers,  and  to  feel  soft,  light,  fresh  rain-drops  on 
one's  cheek  is  a  joy — a  joy  ! 

With  the  violets  came  the  blossoming:  of  the 

o 

dogwood  trees  and  the  wild  plum — things  to  be 
broken  off  in  branches  and  carried  away  over 
one's  shoulder,  like  sumptuous  fair  banners  of 
white  bloom.  And  then  the  peach-  and  apple- 
blossom,  and  new  flowers  at  one's  feet  on  every 
side  as  one  walked  through  paths  or  made  new 
ones  through  the  woods.  As  the  weather  became 
warmer  the  colors  became  warmer  with  it.  Then 
the  early  mornings  were  spent  in  the  flower  hunt, 
the  heat  of  the  day  in  the  Bower,  the  evenings  in 
the  woods  again,  the  nights  upon  the  porch, 
looked  down  upon  by  myriads  of  jewels  trem- 
bling in  the  vastness  of  dark  blue,  or  by  a  moon, 
never  the  same  or  in  the  same  setting,  and  always 
sailing  like  a  boat  of  pearl  in  a  marvellous,  mys- 
terious sea. 

The  Small  Person  used  to  sit  upon  the  steps  of 
the  porch,  her  elbows  on  her  knees,  her  hands 
supporting  her  chin,  her  face  upturned,  staring, 
staring,  in  the  moments  of  silence.  Something  of 
the  feeling  she  had  had  when  she  lay  upon  her 
back  on  the  grass  in  the  Back  Garden  of  Eden  al- 
ways came  back  to  her  when  she  began  to  look  up 
at  the  sky.  Though  it  was  so  high — so  high,  so 
unattainable,  yet  this  too  was  a  world.  Was  she 


The  Dryad  Days  277 

part  of  it  too,  as  she  was  part  of  the  growing 
things  and  the  world  they  belonged  to?  She  was 
not  sure  of  that,  but  there  was  a  link  somewhere — 
she  was  something  to  it  all — somehow  !  In  some 
unknown  way  she  counted  as  soinctJiing  among 
the  myriads  in  the  dark,  vast  blueness — perhaps 
for  as  much  as  a  point  of  the  tiniest  star.  She 
knew  she  could  not  understand,  that  she  was  be- 
yond the  things  understandable,  when  she  had 
this  weird  updrawn,  overwhelming  feeling,  and 
sat  with  her  chin  upon  her  hands  and  stared — and 
stared — and  stared  so  fixedly  and  with  such  inten- 
sity, that  the  earth  seemed  gone — left  far  behind. 
There  was  not  a  season  of  the  year,  an  hour  of 
the  day  which  was  not  a  w^onderful  and  beautiful 
thing.  In  the  winter  there  was  the  snow,  the 
clear,  sharp  air,  which  seemed  actually  to  sparkle, 
the  rose  and  violet  shadows  on  the  mountains, 
the  strange,  lurid  sunsets,  with  crimsons  and  scar- 
lets and  pale  yellows,  burning  the  summits  of  pur- 
ple banks  of  cloud ;  there  was  the  crisp  sound  of 
one's  feet  treading  the  hardened  snow,  the  green 
of  the  pines  looking  emerald  against  the  white- 
ness, the  bare  tree-tops  gray  or  black  against  the 
sky,  and  making  the  blue  intenser ;  there  were  the 
little  brown  rabbits  appearing  with  cautious  hops, 
and  poised,  sniffing  with  tremulous  noses,  their 
large  eyes  and  alert  ears  alarming  them  at  a 
breath  of  sound  to  a  wild  skurry  and  disappear- 


278     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

ance  into  space  itself.  The  rabbits  were  a  de- 
lightful feature.  The  Small  Person  never  was 
able  to  become  intimate  with  them  to  the  extent 
of  being  upon  speaking  terms.  They  would  come 
to  the  Bower  and  peep  at  her  in  the  Summer,  but 
in  the  Winter  they  always  disappeared  with  that 
lightning  rapidity  when  they  heard  her.  And  yet 
if  they  had  known  her  she  was  conscious  that 
they  would  have  recognized  their  mistake.  She 
had  always  deplored  seeing  them  suspended  by 
their  hind  legs  in  the  poulterers'  shops  in  Man- 
chester. They  looked  so  soft,  and  their  dulled 
eyes  seemed  so  piteous. 

The  Spring  was  the  creation  of  the  world — the 
mysterious,  radiant,  young  beginning  of  living. 
There  were  the  violets  and  dogwood  blossoms, 
and  every  day  new  life.  In  the  summer  there 
was  the  Bower,  and  the  roses,  and  the  bees,  and 
the  warm,  aromatic  smells  in  the  air.  In  the 
Autumn  a  new  thing  came,  and  she  seemed  to 
have  drunk  something  heady  again. 

The  first  Autumn  in  America  was  a  wondrous 
thing  to  her.  She  existed  from  day  to  day  in  a 
sort  of  breathless  state  of  incredulity.  In  Man- 
chester, the  leaves  on  the  trees  in  the  public  park, 
being  rained  upon  until  they  became  sodden  and 
brown,  dropped  off  dispirited,  and  life  Avas  at  an 
end.  Even  poetry  and  imaginative  prose  only 
spoke  of  "  Autumn's  russet  brown." 


77/6'  Dryad  Days  279 

But  here  marvels  happened.  After  a  few  hot 
days  and  cool  nights,  the  greenery  of  the  Bower 
began  to  look  strangely  golden.  As  she  lay  under 
her  prettiest  sassafras  -  tree,  the  Small  Person 
found,  when  she  looked  up,  that  something  was 
happening  to  its  leaves.  They  were  still  fresh, 
and  waved  and  rustled,  but  they  were  turning 
pale  yellow.  Some  of  them  had  veins  and  flushes 
of  rose  on  them.  She  gathered  some  and  looked 
at  them  closely.  They  were  like  the  petals  of 
flowers.  A  few  more  hot  days  and  cool  nights 
and  there  were  other  colors.  The  maple  was 
growing  yellow  and  red,  the  dogwood  was  crim- 
son, the  sumach  \vas  like  blood,  the  chestnut  was 
pale  gold,  and  so  was  the  poplar — the  trailing 
brambles  were  painted  as  if  with  a  brush.  The 
Small  Person  could  not  believe  her  eyes,  as  she 
saw  what,  each  day,  went  on  around  her.  It 
seemed  like  a  brilliant  dream,  or  some  exaggera- 
tion of  her  senses. 

"  It  can't  really  be  as  scarlet  as  that  when  one 
holds  it  in  one's  hand,"  she  used  to  say  at  sight  of 
some  high-hued,  flauntingly  lovely  spray. 

And  she  would  stand  upon  her  tiptoes,  and 
stretch,  and  struggle  to  reach  it,  and  stand  pant- 
ing and  flushed,  but  triumphant,  with  it  in  her 
hand,  finding  it  as  brilliant  as  it  had  seemed. 

She  began  to  gather  leaves  as  she  had  gathered 
flowers,  and  went  about  with  bowers  of  branches, 


2 So     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

flaming  and  crimson,  in  her  arms.  She  made 
wreaths  of  sumach  and  maple  leaves,  and  wore 
them  on  her  head,  and  put  bunches  in  her  little 
belt,  and  roamed  about  all  day  in  this  splendor, 
feeling  flaunting  and  inclined  to  sing.  Again,  she 
did  not  know  that  she  was  not  sober,  and  that, 
as  Bacchantes  of  old  wore  wreaths  of  vine-leaves 
and  reeled  a  little  with  the  blood  of  the  new 
grapes,  so  she  was  reeling  a  little  with  an  exulta- 
tion beautiful  and  strange. 

There  was  a  certain  hollow  in  a  little  woodland 
road  she  loitered  about  a  great  deal,  where  there 
was  a  view  which  had  always  a  deep  effect  upon 
her. 

It  was  not  an  imposing  view,  it  was  a  soft  and 
dreamy  one.  The  little  road  ran  between  woods 
and  pretty  wild  places,  to  a  higher  land  clothed 
with  forest.  The  lovely  rolling  wave  of  it 
seemed  to  shut  in  the  world  she  looked  at  when 
she  stood  in  the  little  dip  of  the  road,  with  wood 
on  both  sides  and  the  mountains  behind  her. 

When  all  the  land  was  aflame  with  Autumn, 
and  she  sat  on  Indian  Summer  afternoons  upon  a 
certain  large  lichen-covered  log,  she  used  to  gaze, 
dreaming,  at  the  massed  tree  plumes  of  scarlet 
and  crimson  and  gold  uplifted  against  the  blue 
sky,  and  softened  with  a  faint,  ethereal  haze,  until 
she  had  strange  unearthly  fancies  of  this  too. 

"  A  place  might  open  in  the  blue,"  she  used  to 


The  Dryad  Days  281 

say  softly  to  herself.  "  It  might  open  at  any 
moment — now — while  I  am  sitting  here.  And 
They  might  come  floating  over  the  trees.  They 
would  float,  and  look  like  faint,  white  mist  at  first. 
And  if  the  place  in  the  blue  were  left  open,  I 
might  see  !  ' 

And  at  such  times  all  was  so  still — so  still  and 
wonderful,  that  she  used  to  find  herself  sitting 

o 

breathless,  waiting. 

There  were  many  memories  of  this  hollow 
woodland  path.  So  many  flowers  grew  there, 
and  there  were  always  doves  making  soft  mur- 
murs and  most  tender,  lovelorn  plaints,  high  in 
the  pines'  far  tops.  She  used  to  stand  and  listen 
to  their  cooing,  loving  it,  and  in  her  young,  she- 
dove's  heart  plaining  with  them,  she  did  not  know 
or  ask  why. 

And  there,  more  than  one  rainy  autumn  day, 
she  came  and  stood  with  her  boughs  in  her  arms, 
watching  the  misty  rain  veiling  the  sumptuous 
colors  of  the  wooded  hill,  feeling,  with  a  kind  of 
joyful  pleasure,  the  light-falling  drops  caressing 
her  from  her  red  leaf-wreaths  to  her  damp  feet, 
which  mattered  absolutely  nothing.  How  could 
the  wet  grass  she  seemed  to  have  sprung  from 
earth  with,  the  fresh  cool  rain  she  loved,  hurt 
her,  a  young,  young  Dryad,  in  these  her  Dryad 
days  ? 

How  many  times  it  befell  her  to  follow  this  road 


282     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

-sometimes  running  fast,  sometimes  stealing 
softly,  sometimes  breaking  away  from  it  to  plunge 
into  the  wood  and  run  again  until  she  stopped  to 
listen,  looking  up  into  some  tree,  or  peering  into 
a  thicket  or  bush. 

This  was  when  she  was  giving  herself  up  to 
what  she  called  "  the  bird  chases."  She  liked 
them  so — the  birds.  She  knew  nothing  of  them. 
Birds  such  as  the  woods  hold  had  not  lived  in  the 
Square.  There  had  been  only  serious -minded 
little  sparrows  nesting  in  the  chimneys  and  in  the 
gutterings.  They  brought  up  large  families  un- 
der the  shadows  of  water-piping,  and  taught  them 
to  fly  on  the  wet  slates.  They  were  grateful  for 
crumbs,  particularly  in  snowy  weather,  and  the 
Nursery  patronized  them.  But  they  were  not 
bluebirds  with  a  brief  little  trill  of  Spring  carolled 
persistently  from  all  sorts  of  boughs  and  fence 
corners ;  they  were  not  scarlet  birds  with  black 
velvet  marks  and  crests ;  they  were  not  yellow 
birds  like  stray  canaries,  or  chattering  jays,  or 
mocking-birds  writh  the  songs  of  all  the  woods  in 

o  o 

their  throats ;  they  were  not  thrushes  and  wrens, 
or  woodpeckers  drumming  and  tapping  in  that 
curiously  human  way. 

As  there  had  been  no  one  to  tell  her  the  actual 
names  of  the  flowers,  so  there  was  no  one  to  tell 
her  the  real  names  of  the  birds.  She  used  to  ask 
the  negroes  who  lived  at  the  foot  of  Mount  Ara- 


The  Dryad  Days  283 

rat,  but  the  result  was  so  unsatisfactory  that  she 
gave  it  up. 

"  What  is  that  little  bird  that  sings  like  this, 
Aunt  Cynthy?'  she  would  say,  trying  to  imitate 
its  note.  "  It  is  a  little  blue  thing." 

"  That's  the  bluebird,"  seemed  rather  incom- 
plete to  her  at  the  outset. 

"  And  the  bright  red  one  with  the  black  marks 
and  crest?' 

"  That's  the  redbird,"  which  did  not  seem  much 
more  definite. 

"  I  can  sec  they  are  blue  and  red,"  she  used  to 
say.  "  Haven't  they  a  name  ? ' 

But  they  had  no  other  name,  and  when  the 
birds  described  were  less  marked  in  color  there 
seemed  to  be  no  names  at  all.  So  she  began  to 
commit  the  birds  to  memory,  learning  their  notes 
and  colors  and  forms  by  heart.  In  this  way  were 
instituted  the  bird  chases. 

If  she  heard  a  new  song  or  note  she  ran  after  it 
until  she  saw  the  bird  and  could  watch  him  pip- 
ing or  singing.  It  was  very  interesting  and  led 
her  many  a  mile. 

Sometimes  she  believed  birds  came  and  sang 
near  her,  under  cover,  for  the  mere  fun  of  leading 
her  through  the  woods.  They  would  begin  on  a 
tree  near  by  and  then  fly  away  and  seem  to  hide 
again  until  she  followed  them.  She  always  fol- 
lowed until  she  caught  sight,  of  her  bird.  But 


284     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

they  had  wonderful  ways  of  eluding  her,  and  led 
her  over  hill  and  dale,  and  through  thicket  and 
brambles,  and  even  then  sometimes  got  away. 

There  was  one  with  a  yellow  breast  and  a 
queer  little  cry  which  she  pursued  lor  several 
days,  but  she  saw  him  at  last  and  afterward  be- 
came quite  familiar  with  him.  And  there  was 
one,  who  was  always  one  of  two — a  tender,  sad 
little  thing  who  could  never  be  alone,  and  who 
was  always  an  unanswered  problem  to  her,  and 
somehow,  above  all,  her  best  beloved.  It  was  a 
mystery  because  no  one  ever  seemed  to  have  seen 
it  but  herself,  and  her  description  of  it  was  never 
recognized. 

It  was  a  little  bird — a  tiny  one,  a  soft,  small, 
rounded  one,  with  a  black  velvet  cap,  and  on  its 
first  appearance  it  came  and  sat  upon  the  rail  of 
the  veranda,  and  waited  there,  uttering  a  piteous 
little  note.  She  knew  that  it  was  waiting  and 
was  calling  to  its  mate  because  it  was  a  timid  lit- 
tle thing,  existing  only  under  the  cover  of  his 
wing  and  love.  He  could  only  be  a  small  creat- 
ure himself,  but  the  Small  Person  felt  that  in  the 
round,  bright,  timid  eyes  he  was  a  refuge  from  the 
whole  large  world,  the  brief,  soft,  plaintive  cry  for 
him  was  so  pathetically  trustful  in  its  appealing. 

The  Small  Person,  who  was  sitting  on  the 
wooden  steps,  was  afraid  to  stir  for  fear  of  fright- 
ening her. 


The  Dryad  Days  285 

"  You  poor  little  mite,"  she  murmured,  "  don't 
be  so  sorrowful.  He'll  come  directly." 

And  when  he  did  come  and  was  lovingly  re- 
joiced over,  and  the  tiny  pair  flew  away  together, 
she  was  quite  relieved. 

There  was  something  in  the  brief,  plaintive  note 
which  always  led  her  to  follow  it  when  she  heard 
it  afterward,  which  only  happened  at  rare  inter- 
vals. There  seemed  to  be  some  sad  little  ques- 
tion or  story  in  it  which  she  could  not  help  wish- 
ing she  could  understand.  But  she  never  did, 
though  each  time  she  heard  the  sound  she  ran  to 
look  for  it,  and  stood  beneath  its  tree  looking  up 
with  a  sense  of  a  persistent  question  in  her  own 
breast.  What  was  it  about?  What  did  it  want? 
What  was  it  sad  for?  She  never  heard  the  tiny 
thing  without  finding  it  huddled  down  patiently 
upon  some  bough  or  spray,  calling  for  its  mate. 
And  to  her  it  never  had  any  other  name  than  the 
one  she  s^ave  it  of  "  The  little  mournful  bird." 

o 

These  Dryad  days  were  of  the  first  years  of  her 
teens.  They  were  the  early  Spring  of  her  young 
life.  And  she  was  in  Love — in  Love  with  morn- 
ing, noon,  and  night;  with  Spring  and  Summer 
and  Winter ;  with  leaves  and  roots  and  trees ; 
with  rain  and  dew  and  sun ;  with  shadows  and 
odors  and  winds  ;  with  all  the  little  living  things  ; 
with  the  rapture  of  being  and  unknowingness  and 
mere  Life — with  the  whole  World. 


CHAPTER    XV. 

My  Object  is  Remuneration 


SHE  always  felt  herself  under  a  personal  obli- 
gation to  Christopher  Columbus.  The  years  in 
which  came  the  Dryacl  days  would  have  been 
very  different  if  they  had  been  spent  in  the 
Square  or  within  reach  of  it.  Reduced  resources 
in  a  great  town  or  city  where  one  has  lived  al- 
ways, mean  change  of  habits  and  surroundings, 
shabbiness,  anxiety,  and  annoyance.  They  mean 
depression  and  dreariness,  loss  of  courage,  and 
petty  humiliations  without  end.  In  a  foreign 
land  among  mountains  and  forests  they  mean  se- 
clusion, freedom,  and  novelty.  It  is  novelty  to 
live  in  a  tiny  white  house,  to  wait  upon  one's  self 
and  everyone  else,  to  wear  a  cotton  frock  and 
chase  birds  through  the  woods  without  the  en- 

C5 

cuinbrances  of  hats  and  gloves  and  parasols.  It 
is  also  freedom.  But  in  Dryad  days  lived  in  an 
unsylvan  age  a  serious  reduction  of  resources  is 
felt.  Detail  seems  unnecessary,  but,  without  en- 
tering into  detail,  it  may  be  stated  that  this  re- 
duction of  resource  was  felt  on  the  summit  of 
Mount  Ararat.  Alas  !  one  cannot  live  always  in 


Object  is  Remuneration'         287 

the  Bower,  one  must  come  home  to  dinner  and  to 
bed.  Material  and  painful  but  unavoidable.  Even 
cotton  frocks  wear  out  and  must  be  washed.  And 
the  openings  for  the  Boys  had  not  been  of  suf- 
ficient size  to  allow  of  their  passing  through  to 
ease  and  fortune.  The  consequences  were  curi- 
ous sometimes  and  rather  trying. 

"  We  are  decayed  ladies  and  gentlemen,"  the 
Small  Person  used  to  say  to  herself.  "  We  ought 
to  be  living  in  a  ruined  feudal  castle  and  have 

o 

ancient  servitors  who  refuse  to  leave  us  and  will 
not  take  any  wages.  But  it  is  not  at  all  like  that." 
It  was  not  at  all. 

It  was  so  very  unlike  it  that  there  were  occa- 
sions when  she  gathered  her  leaves  and  flowers 
with  a  thoughtful  little  frown  on  her  forehead, 
and  when  she  talked  the  matter  over  with  Edith 
or  Mamma.  Edith  was  the  practical  member  of 
the  family. 

"  If  one  could  do  something !  "  she  said,  thought- 
fully. 

But  there  are  so  few  things  to  do  if  one  is  very 
young  and  quite  inexperienced  and  lives  on  the 
top  of  Mount  Ararat. 

Still  the  serious  necessity  increased  and  she 
pondered  over  it  more  and  more. 

"  I  wish  I  could  do  something,"  she  said  next. 
She  began  to  have  long  discussions  with  Edith  as 
to  what  one  might  invent  as  a  means  of  resource 

o 


283     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  AIL 

-what  one  could  teach  or  learn — or  make.     But 
nothing  proved  practicable. 

There  was  a  queer  little  room  with  unfinished 
walls  and  rafters  where  she  had  a  table  by  a  win- 
dow and  wrote  stories  in  wet  or  cold  weather  when 


the  Bower  was  out  of  the  question.  There  was  no 
fireplace  and  she  used  to  sit  wrapped  in  a  shawl 
for  warmth.  She  had  a  little  cat  which  always 
followed  her  and  jumped  upon  the  table  when  she 
sat  down,  curling  up  in  the  curve  of  her  left  arm. 
The  little  cat's  name  was  Dora,  and  it  was  also  a 


"My   Object  is  Remuneration'         289 

Small  Person.  It  had  a  clearly  defined  character, 
and  understood  that  it  was  assisting  in  literary 
efforts.  It  also  added  to  the  warmth  the  shawl 
gave.  Edith  used  to  come  upstairs  to  the  rough 
little  room  and  talk  to  her,  and  gradually  she  got 
into  the  habit  of  reading  to  her  pieces  of  the 
stories.  She  began  with  extracts  -  -  speeches, 
scenes,  chapters — and  led  on  by  the  delight  of  her 
audience,  which  was  stimulating  as  that  of  the 
Listeners,  she  read  all  she  wrote. 

Edith  was  a  delightful  listener.  She  was  an 
emotional  little  being,  and  exquisitely  ready  with 
tears,  and  uncontrolled  in  laughter.  She  was  at 
the  same  time  a  remarkable  Small  Person  and  sin- 
gularly perceptive. 

They  used  to  sit  and  talk  over  the  stories — telling 
each  other  what  they  liked  best  or  were  not  quite 
sure  of.  The  Small  Person  had  a  curious  feeling 
that  in  reading  to  Edith  she  was  submitting  her 
creations  to  a  sort  of  infallible  critic — one  who  was 
infallible  not  through  experience  or  training,  but 
through  a  certain  unfailing  truth  of  sentiment  and 
emotion,  and  an  unfaltering  good  taste.  It  must 
be  recorded,  however,  that  neither  of  them  for  a 
moment  contemplated  the  chance  of  a  larger  pub- 
lic existing  for  the  stories.  Never  for  an  instant 
had  it  occurred  to  the  Small  Person  that  they  were 
worth  publishing.  That  would  have  seemed  to 
her  a  height  of  presumption  quite  grotesque. 
19 


290     The   One  I  Knezv  the  Best  of  AIL 

They  were  hidden  from  the  Boys  as  carefully  as 
ever,  and  derided  as  mercilessly  when  they  were 
mentioned  by  them.  "  Frances's  love  stories ' 
were  an  unfailing  source  of  jocular  entertainment. 
It  was  never  ill-natured  entertainment,  and  there 
was  plenty  of  rough  young  wit  in  it ;  but  naturally 
a  young  Briton  finds  it  rather  a  lark  to  contem- 
plate the  thought  of  a  small  girl  he  has  chaffed  and 
patronized  all  his  life  secreting  herself  to  write 
pages  of  romantic  description  of  the  emotions  of 
"  a  case  of  spoons."  The  Boys  were  fond  of  her, 
and  their  intercourse  was  marked  by  bounteous 
good-nature  and  the  best  of  tempers  and  spirits, 
but  their  impression  naturally  was  that  the  stories 
would  be  "  bosh."  But  she  continued  to  write 
them — with  the  little  cat  curled  in  her  left  arm- 
and  read  them  to  Edith.  It  was  the  "  Answers 
to  Correspondents  "  in  various  magazines  which 
inspired  her  with  her  tremendously  daring 
thought.  Things  like  these  : 

"  Elaine  the  Fair.- -Your  story  has  merit,  but  is 
not  quite  suited  to  our  columns.  Never  write  on 
both  sides  of  your  paper." 

"  ChristabeL- -We  do  not  return  rejected  manu- 
script unless  stamps  are  enlosed  for  postage." 

"  Blair  of  Athol.--We  accept  your  poem,  '  The 
Knight's  Token.'  Shall  be  glad  to  hear  from  you 
again." 

She    read    them   on    the  final    pages  of  Godeys 


"My   Object  is  Remuneration'         291 

Ladys  Book  and  Peterson's  Magazine,  etc.  Her 
circumstances  were  not  sufficiently  princely  to 
admit  of  her  being  among  the  subscribers,  but  oc- 
casionally a  copy  or  so  drifted  in  her  way.  They 
were  much  read  at  that  time  in  the  locality. 

She  was  reading  these  absorbing  replies  to  the 
correspondents  one  day  when  a  thought  floated 
into  her  mind,  and  after  a  few  moments  of  indefi- 
niteness  took  shape  and  presented  itself  before 
her.  She  blushed  a  little  at  first  because  it  had 
such  an  air  of  boldness.  She  rather  thrust  it 
aside,  but  after  a  while  she  found  herself  con- 
templating it — as  if  from  afar  off. 

"  I  wonder  how  much  they  pay  for  the  stories 
in  magazines,"  she  said,  reflectively,  to  Edith. 

Edith  did  not  know,  naturally,  and  had  not 
formed  any  opinion. 

"  I  wonder  if  they  pay  much,"  the  Small  Per- 
son continued  ;  "  and — what  sort  of  people  write 
them?"  It  seemed  impossible  that  ordinary, 
every-day  people  could  write  things  that  would 
be  considered  worth  paying  for  and  publishing  in 
magazines.  It  seemed  to  imply  immense  talents 
and  cultivation  and  training  and  enormous  dignity. 

She  did  not  think  this  because  she  found  the 
stories  invariably  brilliant,  but  because  she  felt 
that  there  must  be  some  merit  she  was  not  clever 
enough  to  detect ;  if  not  they  would  never  have 
been  published. 


292    The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

"  Sometimes  they  are  not  so  awfully  clever," 
she  said. 

"  Well,"  said  Edith,  boldly,  "  I've  seen  lots  of 
them  not  half  as  nice  as  yours." 

"  Ah  ! '  she  exclaimed,  conscious  of  being  beset 
by  her  sheepish  feeling ;  u  that's  because  you  are 
my  sister." 

"  No,  it  isn't,"  said  the  valiant  Edith,  with  her 
favorite  little  pucker  of  her  forehead.  "  I  don't 
care  whether  I'm  your  sister  or  not.  Some  of 
your  stories  are  beautiful ! ' 

The  Small  Person  blushed,  because  she  was  of 
the  Small  Persons  who  are  given  to  superfluous 
blushing.  u  I  wonder,"  she  said,  "  if  the  maga- 
zine people  would  think  so." 

"  I  don't  know  anything  about  magazine  peo- 
ple," said  Edith ;  "  but  I  don't  see  why  they 
shouldn't  think  so." 

"  They  wouldn't,"  said  the  Small  Person,  with 
a  sudden  sense  of  discouragement.  "  Of  course 
they  wouldn't." 

But  she  could  not  help  the  thought  of  the  an- 
swered correspondents  returning  to  her  after- 
ward. She  found  herself  wondering  about  them 
as  she  rambled  through  the  woods  or  lay  on  the 
grass  in  the  Bower.  How  did  they  send  their 
stories  to  the  magazines  ?  Was  it  by  post  or 
by  express?  If  it  was  by  post  how  many  stamps 
would  it  take  ?  How  could  one  find  out  ?  It 


<  i 


My   Object  is  Remuneration '         293 


would  be  important  that  one  should  put  on 
enough.  She  remembered  "  answers  '  such  as 
this:  "March  Hare.--We  cannot  receive  MSS. 
on  which  insufficient  postage  has  been  paid."  It 
was  evidently  necessary  to  make  a  point  of  the 
postage. 

Then  there  was  the  paper.  To  meet  the  ap- 
proval of  an  august  being  it  seemed  as  if  some- 
thing special  must  be  required.  And  more  than 
once  she  had  read  instructions  of  such  a  nature 
as:  "  Airy,  Fairy  Lilian. --Write  in  a  clear  hand 
on  ordinary  foolscap  paper." 

She  was  only  fifteen,  and  her  life  had  been 
spent  between  the  Square  and  the  Bower.  Her 
horizon  had  not  been  a  broad  one,  and  had  not 
embraced  practical  things.  She  had  had  no  per- 
sonal acquaintance  with  Ordinary  Foolscap.  If 
the  statement  had  demanded  extraordinary  fools- 
cap she  would  have  felt  it  only  natural. 

Somehow  she  found  a  timid,  but  growing  in- 
terest in  the  whole  subject.  She  could  not  quite 
get  away  from  it.  And  when  circumstances  oc- 
curred which  directed  her  attention  specially  to 
the  results  of  the  reduced  resources  she  was  led 
to  dwell  on  it  with  a  certain  sense  of  fascination. 

"  Something  must  be  done  !  '  she  said  to  her- 
self, desperately.  "  We  can't  go  on  like  this. 
Someone  must  do  something." 

The   three  little  girls  talked  together  at  times 


294     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

quite  gloomily.  They  all  agreed  that  Somebody 
must  do  something.  The  Boys  were  doing  their 
best,  but  luck  did  not  seem  to  be  with  them. 

44  Something  must  be  done,"  the  Small  Person 
kept  repeating. 

"  Yes,"  replied  Edith,  "  but  what  must  it  be  and 
Who  will  do  it?" 

The  people  whose  stories  were  bought  and 
printed  must  some  time  have  sent  their  first 
stories.  And  they  could  not  have  known  whether 
they  were  really  good  or  not  until  they  had  asked 
and  found  out.  The  only  way  of  finding  out  was 
to  send  one — written  in  a  clear  hand  on  one  side  of 
ordinary  foolscap — having  first  made  quite  sure 
that  it  had  stamps  enough  on  it.  If  a  person  had 
the  courage  to  do  that,  he  or  she  would  at  least 
hear  if  it  was  worth  reading — if  a  stamp  was  en- 
closed. 

These  were  the  reflections  with  which  the  Small 
Person's  mind  was  occupied. 

And  if  it  was  worth  reading — if  the  August  Be- 
ing deigned  to  think  it  so — and  was  not  rendered 
rabid  and  infuriate  by  insufficient  postage,  or  in- 
distinct writing,  or  by  having  to  read  on  both 
sides  of  the  ordinary  foolscap,  if  he  was  in  need 
of  stories  for  his  magazine,  and  if  he  was  in  a  good 
temper  he  might  accept  it — and  buy  it. 

If  the  Listeners  had  liked  her  stories  so  much, 
if  Edith  and  Edwina  liked  them,  if  Edith  thought 


i  > 


My   Object  is  Remuneration  '         295 


they  were  as  nice  as  some  she  had  read  in  Godeys 
Ladys  Book,  might  it  not  be  just  possible  that- 
that  an  Editor  might  deign  to  read  one  and  per- 
haps even  say  that  it  "  had  merit,"  even  if  it  was 
not  good  enough  to  buy.  If  he  said  that  much, 
she  could  study  the  stones  in  the  Ladys  Book, 
etc.,  assiduously  enough,  perhaps,  to  learn  the  se- 
cret of  their  success,  and  finally  do  something 
which  might  be  worthy  to  compete  with  them. 

She  was  a  perfectly  unassuming  child.  She  had 
never  had  any  feeling  about  her  story-telling  but 
that  it  seemed  part  of  herself-  -something  she 
could  not  help  doing.  Secretly  she  had  been 
afraid,  as  time  went  by,  that  she  had  been  Ro- 
mantic with  the  Doll,  and  in  private  she  was 
afraid  that  she  was  Romantic  about  the  stories. 
The  idea  that  anyone  but  the  Listeners  and  Edith 
and  Edwina  would  be  likely  to  care  to  hear  or 
read  them  had  never  entered  her  mind.  The 
cheerful  derision  of  the  Boys  added  to  her  sensi- 
tive shyness  about  them,  and  upon  the  whole  she 
regarded  her  little  idiosyncrasy  as  a  thing  to  be 
kept  rather  quiet.  Nothing  but  actual  stress  ot 
circumstances  would  have  spurred  her  to  the 
boldness  of  daring  to  hope  for  them.  But  in 
those  days  Noah's  Ark  found  itself  lacking  such 
common  things — things  which  could  not  be  dis- 
pensed with  even  by  the  most  decayed  of  ladies 
and  gentlemen. 


296     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

So  one  day  after  many  mental  struggles  she 
found  herself  sitting  with  Edith  and  the  little 
cat,  in  the  small  room  with  the  bare  walls  and 
rafters.  And  she  gathered  her  courage  in  both 
hands. 

"  Edith,"  she  said,  "  I've  been  thinking  about 
something." 

Edith  looked  at  her  with  interest.  She  was  a 
lovely  little  person  and  a  wonderful  friend  for  her 
years — which  were  thirteen. 

"What  is  it?"  she  said. 

"  Do  you  think — do  you  think  it  would  be  silly 
to  send  one  of  my  stories — to  a  magazine — and 
see  if  they  would  take  it  ? ' 

I  cannot  help  believing  that  at  the  first  moment 
Edith  rather  lost  her  breath.  The  two  were  Eng- 
lish children,  brought  up  in  a  simple  English  nurs- 
ery in  the  most  primitively  conventional  way. 
Such  a  life  is  not  conducive  to  a  spirit  of  bold- 
ness and  enterprise.  In  matters  of  point  of  view 
they  would  have  seemed  to  the  American  mind 
incredibly  young  for  their  years.  If  they  had 
been  American  children  they  would  have  been 
immensely  cooler  and  far  less  inclined  to  ultra- 
respectful  attitudes  toward  authority. 

"  Do  you  ? "  said  the  Small  Person.   "  Do  you  ? ' 

Edith  gathered  herself  together  also.  Across 
a  lifetime  the  picture  of  her  small  face  rises  with 
perfect  distinctness.  She  was  a  fair  little  person, 


^^^  Object  is  Remuneration '         297 

with  much  curling  blond  hair  and  an  expressive 
little  forehead  which  had  a  habit  of  puckering  it- 
self. She  was  still  startled,  but  she  bore  herself 
with  a  courage  which  was  heroic. 

"  No,"  she  answered,  "  I  don't ! " 

If  she  had  said  that  she  did,  the  matter  might 
have  ended  there,  but  as  it  was,  the  Small  Person 
breathed  again.  She  felt  the  matter  might  be 
contemplated  and  approached  more  nearly.  One 
might  venture  at  least  to  talk  about  it  in  private. 

"  I  have  been  thinking  and  thinking  about  it," 
she  said.  "  Even  if  they  are  not  good  enough  to 
be  published  it  would  not  do  any  harm  just  to 
try.  They  can  only  be  sent  back — and  then  I 
should  know.  Do  you  think  we  dare  do  it?" 

"  If  I  were  you  I  would,"  said  Edith. 

"  I  believe,"  hesitated  the  Small  Person,  "  I  do 
believe  I  will." 

Edith  began  to  become  excited. 

"  Oh,"  she  said,  "  I  think  it  would  be  splendid  ! 
What  would  you  send  ?  ' 

"  I  should  have  to  write  something  new.  I 
haven't  anything  ready  that  I  should  care  to 
send.  I'd  write  something  carefully- -just  as  well 
as  I  could.  There's  a  story  I  began  to  write  when 
we  lived  in  the  Square,  three  years  ago.  I  never 
finished  it,  and  I  only  wrote  scenes  out  of  it  in 
old  account-books ;  but  I  remember  what  it  was 
about,  and  the  other  day  I  found  an  old  book 


298     The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  AIL 

with  some  scraps  of  it  in.  And  I  really  do  think 
it's  rather  nice.  And  I  might  finish  it,  perhaps." 
She  began  to  tell  the  story,  and  became  exhila- 
rated with  the  telling,  as  she  always  did,  and 
Edith  thought  it  an  enchanting  story,  and  so  it 
was  decided  that  it  should  be  finished  and  put  to 
the  test. 

"  But  there's  one  thing,"  she  said,  "  I  would  not 
have  the  Boys  know  for  anything  in  the  world. 
They  would  laugh  so,  and  they  would  think  it 
such  a  joke  if  it  was  sent  back  again.  I'm  going 
to  put  in  stamps  to  send  it  back  with,  because  if 
you  put  on  stamps  enough  they  will  send  it  back. 
And  perhaps  they  wouldn't  take  the  trouble  to 
write  a  letter  if  the)7  didn't  like  it  and  I  didn't 
send  the  extra  stamps.  You  often  see  in  maga- 
zines a  notice  that  manuscript  will  be  returned  if 
stamps  are  sent.  So  in  that  way  I  shall  be  sure 
to  find  out.  But  I  must  get  them  without  the 
Boys  knowing." 

"  Yes,  you  must,"  said  Edith.  "  They  would 
tease  you  so  if  it  came  back.  But  what  are  you 
going  to  do?  You  know  there  isn't  any  money 
now  but  what  the  Boys  get.  And  that's  little 
enough,  goodness  knows." 

"  We  shall  have  to  think  about  it,"  said  the 
Small  Person,  "  and  contrive.  It  will  take  a  good 
deal  of  contriving,  but  I  have  to  write  the  story 
first." 


"My   Object  is  Remuneration'         299 

"Do  you  think  it  will  take  many  stamps?" 
asked  Edith,  beginning  to  pucker  her  expressive 
little  forehead,  anxiously. 

"Yes,  a  good  many,  I'm  afraid,"  was  the  Small 
Person's  answer.  "  And  then  we  have  to  buy  the 
foolscap  paper — ordinary  foolscap.  But  of  all 
things  promise  and  swear  you  won't  breathe  a 
word  before  the  Boys." 

It  was  a  marvel  that  they  did  not  betray  them- 
selves in  some  way.  It  was  so  thrilling  a  secret. 
While  the  story  was  being  written  they  could 
think  and  talk  of  nothing  else.  The  Small  Person 
used  to  come  down  from  the  raftered  Temple  of 
the  Muses  with  her  little  cat  under  her  arm,  and 
her  cheeks  a  blaze  of  scarlet.  The  more  absorbed 
and  interested  she  was  the  more  brilliant  her 
cheeks  were. 

"  How  red  your  cheeks  are,  my  dear,"  Mamma 
would  say.  "  Does  your  head  ache  ?  ' 

But  her  head  did  not  ache,  though  it  would 
have  done,  if  she  had  not  been  a  splendidly  strong 
little  animal. 

"  I  always  know  when  you've  been  writing  very 
fast,"  Edith  used  to  say ;  "  your  cheeks  always 
look  so  flaming  red." 

It  was  not  long,  of  course,  before  Mamma  was 
taken  into  confidence.  What  she  thought  it 
would  be  difficult  to  say,  but  she  was  lovable 
and  sustaining  as  usual. 


300     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

"  It  won't  do  any  harm  to  try,  dear,"  she  said. 
"  It  seems  to  me  you  write  very  nice  things,  for 
one  so  young,  and  perhaps  some  of  the  edi- 
tors might  like  them ;  and,  of  course,  it  would 
be  a  great  help  if  they  would  pay  you  a  little 
money." 

"  But  the  Boys  mustn't  know  one  word,"  said 
the  Small  Person.  "  I'll  tell  them  if  it's  accepted, 
but  if  it  isn't,  I'd  rather  be  dead  than  that  they 
should  find  out." 

And  so  the  story  went  on,  and  it  was  read 
aloud  under  the  rafters,  and  Edith  revelled  in  it, 
and  the  little  cat  lay  curled  up  in  the  Small  Per- 
son's left  arm,  quite  undisturbed  by  the  excite- 
ment in  the  atmosphere  around  her.  And  as 
the  work  went  on  the  two  plotters  discussed  and 
planned  and  contrived. 

First,  how  to  get  the  ordinary  foolscap  to 
copy  out  the  manuscript  in  a  beautiful  clear 
hand ;  next,  how  to  get  the  address  of  the  Editor 
to  be  approached ;  next,  how  to  address  him ; 
next,  how  to  find  out  how  many  stamps  would 
be  necessary  to  carry  the  fateful  package  and 
bring  it  back,  if  such  was  to  be  its  doom. 

It  had  all  to  be  done  in  such  secrecy  and  with 
such  precautions.  To  walk  to  town  and  back 
was  a  matter  of  two  or  three  hours,  and  the  Boys 
would  wonder  if  they  did  not  hear  why  a  journey 
had  been  made.  They  always  saw  the  person 


"My  Object  is  Remuneration*        301 

who  went  to  town.  Consequently  no  member  of 
the  household  could  go  without  attracting  atten- 
tion. So  some  outsider  must  be  found  who'could 
make  the  journey  to  visit  a  book-store  and  find 
the  address  required.  It  would  have  been  all  so 
simple  if  it  had  not  been  for  the  Boys. 

But  by  the  time  the  story  was  finished  an  ac- 
quaintance who  lived  on  a  neighboring  farm  had 
procured  the  address  and  some  information  about 
the  stamps,  though  this  last  could  not  be  applied 
very  definitely,  as  the  weight  of  the  package 
could  only  be  guessed  at,  in  the  absence  of  letter- 
scales. 

The  practical  views  of  the  Small  Person  at 
this  crisis  impress  me  greatly.  They  were  so 
incompatible  with  her  usual  vagueness  and  ro- 
mancings  that  they  strike  me  as  rather  deliciously 
incongruous. 

"  I  must  have  the  right  kind  of  paper,"  she 
argued,  "  because  if  I  sent  something  that  seemed 
queer  to  them  they  would  think  me  silly  to  begin 
with.  And  I  must  write  it  very  plainly,  so  that 
it  will  be  easy  to  read,  and  on  only  one  side,  be- 
cause if  they  are  bothered  by  anything  it  will 
make  them  feel  cross  and  they  will  hate  me,  and 
hate  my  story  too.  Then,  as  to  the  letter  I  send 
with  it,  I  must  be  very  careful  about  that.  Of 
course  they  have  a  great  many  such  letters  and 
they  must  be  tired  of  reading  them.  So  I  must 


302     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

make  it  very  short.  I  would  send  it  without  a 
letter,  but  I  must  make  them  understand  that  I 
want  it  sent  back  if  they  don't  like  it,  and  call 
their  attention  to  the  stamps  and  let  them  know 
I  am  doing  it  for  money  and  not  just  for  the  fun 
of  getting  the  story  published." 

"How  will  you  tell  them  that?'  asked  Edith, 
a  trifle  alarmed.  It  seemed  so  appalling  and  in- 
delicate to  explain  to  an  Editor  that  you  wanted 
money. 

The  Small  Person  felt  the  same  thing.  She 
felt  this  sordid  mention  of  an  expectation  of  re- 
ceiving dollars  and  cents  in  return  for  her  work 
a  rather  gross  thing — a  bold  thing  which  might 
cause  the  Editor  to  receive  a  severe  shock  and 
regard  her  with  cold  disgust  as  a  brazen  Small 
Person.  Upon  the  whole,  it  was  the  most  awful 
part  of  the  situation.  But  there  was  no  help  for 
it.  Having  put  her  hand  to  the  plough  she  could 
not  turn  back,  or  trifle  with  the  chance  that  the 
Editor  might  think  her  a  well-to-do  Small  Person, 
who  did  not  write  stories  for  publication  through 
sheer  need,  but  for  amusement. 

"  I  shall  have  to  think  that  over,"  she  said,  seri- 
ously. "  I  don't  want  to  offend  them,  of  course, 
but  I  must  tell  them  that !  " 

If  it  were  possible  to  depict  in  sufficiently 
strong  colors  her  mental  impressions  of  the  man- 
ners, idiosyncrasies,  and  powers  of  an  Editor,  the 


'  My   Object  is  Remuneration  '         303 

picture  would  be  an  interesting  one.     It  was  an 
impression    so    founded    upon    respect    and    un- 
bounded awe.     Between  an  utterly  insignificant 
little  girl  in  the  mountains  of  East  Tennessee  and 
an  Editor  in  a  princely  official  apartment  in  Phil- 
adelphia  or   New  York,  invested   by    Fate   with 
the  power  to  crush  people  to  the  earth  and  re- 
duce them  to  impalpable  dust  by  refusing  their 
manuscripts — or   to   raise   them   to    dizziest   pin- 
nacles of  bliss  by  accepting  them — there  was  a 
gulf  imagination  could  not  cross.     Buddha  him- 
self, sitting  in  rapt  passiveness  with  folded  hands 
and  down-dropped  lids,  was  not  so  marvellous  or 
so  final.     Editors  presented  themselves  to  her  as 
representing   a    distinct    superhuman    race.      It 
seemed  impossible  that  they  were  moved  by  the 
ordinary    emotions    and    passions    of     mankind. 
Why  she  was  pervaded  with  a  timorousness,  with 
regard  to  them,  which  only  Mad  Bulls  or  Tigers 
with  hydrophobia  would  have  justified,  it  is  not 
easy  to  explain.     Somehow  the  picture  of  an  Edi- 
tor rendered  infuriate — "  gone  must"  as  it  were- 
in  consequence  of  an  inadequacy  of  stamps,  or  a 
fault  in  punctuation,  or  as  a  result  of  indistinct 
handwriting  covering  both  sides  of  the  ordinary 
foolscap,  was  a   thing    which    haunted  both    her 
waking   and    sleeping   hours.     He    would  return 
the  manuscript  with  withering  comment,  or  per- 
haps not  return  it  at  all,  and  keep  all  the  stamps, 


304     The   One  I  Kneiv  the  Best  of  AIL 

which  might  be  considered  perfectly  proper  for 
an  Editor  if  one  broke  his  Mede  and  Persian 
laws.  Such  a  being  as  this  must  be  approached 
with  salaams  and  genuflections,  and  forehead 
touching  the  dust. 

Poor,  little,  anxious  girl ;  I  find  her — rather 
touching  at  this  distance — sitting  in  her  raftered 
room,  scribbling  hotly,  with  her  little  cat  in  her 
arm,  and  her  cheeks  like  scarlet  flame.  But  she 
could  not  write  the  explanatory  letter  to  the  Edi- 
tor until  she  had  got  the  money  to  buy  the  paper 
to  copy  the  story  and  the  stamps  to  send  it.  And 
how  to  do  this  without  applying  to  the  Boys  ? 
The  rafters  and  the  little  cat  presided  over  hours 
of  planning  and  discussion.  What  could  be 
done. 

"  If  we  could  make  some  money  ourselves," 
said  the  Small  Person,  mournfully. 

"  But  we  can't,"  said  Edith.  "  We've  tried,  you 
know." 

"  Yes,"  said  the  Small  Person.  "  Embroidery- 
and  people  don't  want  it.  Music  lessons — peo- 
ple think  I'm  too  young.  Chickens — and  they 
wouldn't  hatch,  and  when  they  did  they  died  of 
the  gapes ;  besides  the  bother  of  having  to  sit  on 
the  hen  to  make  her  sit  on  the  nest,  and  live 
at  full  speed  round  the  yard  chasing  them  back 
into  the  coops  when  they  get  through  holes. 
Out  of  all  that  setting  of  goose-eggs  only  one 


"My   Object  is  Remuneration'         305 

hatched,   and    that   wasn't    a   goose  —  it    was    a 
gander — and  a  plank  fell  on  it  and  killed  it." 

They  both  indulged  in  a  rueful  giggle.  The 
poultry-raising  episode  had  been  a  very  trying 
and  exciting  one. 

"  If  we  had  something  to  sell,"  she  went  on. 

"  We  haven't,"  said  Edith. 

The  Story  touched  the  Small  Person  sadly  on 
the  shoulder. 

"  It  would  be  awfully  mournful,"  she  said,  "  if  I 
really  could  write  stories  that  people  would  like- 
and  if  I  could  sell  them  and  get  money  enough  to 
make  us  quite  comfortable — if  all  that  good  fort- 
une was  in  me — and  I  never  found  it  out  all  my 
life — just  because  I  can't  buy  some  paper  and  pos- 
tage-stamps." 

It  seemed  too  tragic.  They  sat  and  looked  at 
each  other  in  gloom.  The  conversation  ended 
after  a  short  time  in  desperate  discouragement, 
and  the  Small  Person  was  obliged  to  wander  out 
to  her  hollow  on  the  woodland  road  and  stand  for 
a  long  time  looking  at  the  changing  trees,  listen- 
ing with  a  strange  feeling  to  the  sorrowful  plain- 
ing of  the  doves  on  the  tops  of  the  pine-trees. 

As  the  leaves  were  changing  then,  it  cannot 
have  been  very  long  before  the  inspiration  came 
which  solved  the  problem.  Who  gave  the  in- 
formation which  gave  rise  to  it  is  not  a  detail 
which  anyone  can  remember.  Something-  or 
20 


i 


06     The   One  I  Kneiv  the  Best  of  Ait 


other  makes  it  seem  probable  that  it  was  Edwina, 
who  came  into  the  writing-room  one  day  and  sat 
down,  saying,  a propos  of  nothing  in  particular: 

"  Aunt  Cynthy's  two  girls  made  a  dollar  yester- 
day by  selling  wild  grapes  in  the  market.  They 
got  them  in  the  woods  over  the  hill." 

"Which  hill?"  asked  the  Small  Person. 

"  The  hill  near  the  house — the  one  you  can  see 
out  of  the  window.  They  say  there  are  plenty 
there." 

"  Are  there  ?  "  said  the  Small  Person. 

"  1  wonder  how  much  they  got  a  gallon  ?  "  said 
Edith. 

"  I  don't  know,"  said  Edwina.  "  But  they  sold 
a  dollar's  worth,  and  they  say  they  are  going  to 
gather  more." 

"  Edith  !  "  exclaimed  the  Small  Person, "  Edith  ! " 
A  brilliant  idea  had  come  to  her.  She  felt  her 
cheeks  grow  hot. 

"  Suppose,"  she  said,  "  suppose  we  went  and 
gathered  some — a  whole  lot — and  suppose  we 
gave  the  girls  part  of  the  money  to  sell  them  for 
us  in  the  market — perhaps  we  should  get  enough 
to  buy  the  stamps  and  paper." 

It  seemed  an  inspiration  of  the  gods.  It  was  as 
if  some  divine  chance  had  been  given  to  them. 
Edith  and  Edwina  clapped  their  hands.  If  wild 
grapes  had  been  sold  they  would  sell  again  ;  if  the 
woods  were  full  of  them  why  should  they  not 


"My   Object  is  Remuneration'         307 

gather  them — quarts,  gallons,  bucketfuls  of  them 
—as  many  as  necessity  required. 

There  arose  an  excited,  joyous  gabbling  at 
once.  It  would  be  delightful.  It  would  be  fun 
in  itself.  It  would  be  like  going  gypsying.  And 
if  there  were  really  a  great  many  grapes,  they 
might  be  sold  for  more  money  than  would  pay 
for  the  stamps. 

"  It's  a  good  thing  we  are  not  living  in  the 
Square  now,"  said  the  Small  Person.  "  We 
couldn't  go  and  gather  wild  grapes  in  Back  Syd- 
ney Street." 

Suddenly  they  felt  rich  and  hopeful,  //"they 
found  grapes  enough — if  they  were  sold — z/the 
Editor  was  in  a  benign  humor,  who  could  tell 
what  might  happen. 

"  If  they  buy  this  one,"  said  the  Small  Person, 
"  I  can  write  others,  and  perhaps  they  will  buy 
those  too.  I  can  always  make  up  stories. 
Wouldn't  it  be  queer  if  it  turned  out  that  was  the 
thing  I  have  to  do.  You  know  how  we  have 
kept  saying,  l  Something  must  be  done.'  Oh ! 
Edith,  wouldn't  it  be  beautiful ! ' 

"  Of  course  it  would  be  beautiful,"  answered 
Edith. 

"  Perhaps,"  sighed  the  Small  Person,  "  it  is  too 
nice  to  be  true.  But  we'll  go  and  get  the  wild 
grapes." 

And  so  they  did. 


308     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

It  was  Edith  who  arranged  the  detail.  She 
saw  the  little  mulatto  girls  and  talked  with  them. 
They  were  greatly  pleased  at  the  idea  of  selling 
the  grapes.  They  would  pilot  the  party  to  places 
where  they  believed  there  were  vines,  and  they 
would  help  in  the  gathering,  themselves.  The 
expedition  began  to  wear  the  air  of  an  exhilarat- 
ing escapade. 

It  would  have  been  a  delightful  thing  to  do, 
even  if  it  had  been  arranged  merely  as  a  holiday. 
They  issued  forth  to  conquer  in  the  wildest  spir- 
its. Each  one  carried  a  tin  bucket,  and  each 
wore  a  cotton  frock,  and  a  sun-bonnet  or  a  utili- 
tarian straw  hat.  The  sun  was  rather  hot,  but 
the  day  was  a  golden  one.  There  was  gold  in 
the  trees,  gold  in  the  air,  gold  in  the  distances. 
The  speculators  had  no  decorum  in  their  method. 
They  chased  about  the  warm,  yellowing  woods 
like  wild  things.  They  laughed  and  shouted  to 
each  other  when  they  scrambled  apart.  They 
forced  their  way  through  undergrowth,  and  tore 
their  way  through  brambles  ;  they  clambered 
over  great  logs;  they  uttered  wild  little  shrieks 
at  false  alarms  of  snakes  ;  they  shouted  with  joy 
when  they  came  upon  vines;  they  filled  their 
buckets,  and  ate  grapes  to  repletion,  and  swung 
on  the  rope  like  vines  themselves. 

The  Small  Person  had  never  been  less  sober. 
At  intervals  she  roamed  awav  a  little,  and  stood 


My   Object  is  Remuneration '         309 


in  some  warm,  golden  place,  with  young  trees 
and  bushes  closed  about  her,  simply  breathing 
the  air,  and  enraptured  with  a  feeling  of  being 


mmmv>.  -/, 

:. 


ar^f.  tipf 'if!'  1  m>  wm'~~-<w<  J    •t-Zg&'Z,  '•  '•-'      • 


like  a  well- 
sunned  In- 
dian  peach. 
Her  cheeks 
had     such     an 
Autumn     heat    in 
them-  -that    glow 
which  is  not  like  the  heat 
of  summer.     And    what   a 

day  of  dreams.  If — if — if!  "  If"  is  such  a  charm- 
ing word — such  a  benign  one — such  a  sumptuous 
one.  One  cannot  always  say  with  entire  sense  of 
conviction,  "  I  have  a  kingdom  and  a  princely 


3io    The  Otie  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

fortune,  and  1  will  build  a  palace  of  gold  '  -but 
who  cannot  say,  "  If  I  had  a  kingdom  and  the  fort- 
une of  a  prince,  I  would  build  a  palace  of  gold." 
The  golden  palace  rises  fair,  and  one  almost  hears 
the  courtiers  speak.  "If  gives  a  shadow,  the 
substance  of  which  would  be  a  poorer  thing. 

She  built  her  palaces  that  day,  and  furnished 
them,  and  lived  in  them,  as  she  searched  for  her 
wild  grapes.  They  were  innocent  palaces,  and 
small  ones,  for  she  was  a  very  young  and  vague 
thing;  but  they  were  things  of  light  and  love  and 
beauty,  and  filled  with  the  diaphanous  forms  of 
the  beliefs  and  dreams  only  such  young  palaces 
can  hold. 

The  party  went  home  at  sunset  with  its  tin 
pails  full  to  the  brim  and  covered  with  fresh  vine- 
leaves. 

"  We  shall  get  two  or  three  dollars  fer  these," 
said  one  of  the  pilots.  "  Me  an'  Ser'phine  didn't 
have  nigh  onto  as  many  that  other  time." 

"  Now  if  they  sell  them,"  said  Edith  and  the 
Small  Person  when  they  got  home,  "  we  shall 
have  the  paper  and  the  postage-stamps." 

It  seems  to  be  regretted  that  the  amount  they 
sold  for  cannot  be  recalled — but  it  was  enough  to 
buy  the  postage-stamps  and  paper  and  pay  all 
expenses,  and  even  leave  something  over.  The 
business  part  of  the  speculation  was  a  complete 
success. 


"My   Object  is  Remuneration'         311 

With  what  care  the  ordinary  foolscap  was 
chosen ;  with  what  discreet  precautions  that  it 
should  be  of  the  right  size  and  shade,  and  should 
not  enrage  the  Editor  the  instant  he  saw  it.  How 
large  and  round  and  clear  each  letter  was  made  in 
the  copying.  An  Editor  who  was  afflicted  with 
cataract  might  have  read  it  half-way  across  his 
.palatial  sanctum.  And  then  the  letter  that  was 
written  to  accompany  the  venture !  How  it  was 
reflected  upon,  and  reasoned  about,  and  discussed  ! 
"  An  Editor  does  not  want  to  know  anything  about 
me"  the  Small  Person  said.  "  He  does  not  know 
me,  and  he  doesn't  care  about  me,  and  he  won't 
want  to  be  bothered.  I  shall  just  say  I  have  en- 
closed the  stamps  to  send  the  manuscript  back 
with,  if  he  does  not  want  it.  And  I  shall  have  to 
speak  about  the  money.  You  see,  Edith,  if  the 
stories  are  worth  writing,  they  must  be  worth 
reading,  and  if  they  are  worth  printing  and  read- 
ing they  must  be  worth  paying  for,  and  if  they  are 
not  worth  publishing  and  reading  they  are  not 
worth  writing,  and  I  had  better  not  waste  my  time 
on  them."  Whence  this  clear  and  practical  point 
of  view  it  would  be  difficult  to  say.  But  she  was 
quite  definite  about  it.  The  urgency  of  the  situa- 
tion had  made  her  definite.  Perhaps  at  a  crisis 
she  became  practical — but  it  was  only  at  a  crisis. 

And  after  serious  deliberation  and.  much  re  writ- 
ins:  and  elimination  the  following1  concise  and  un- 

o  o 


312     The  One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

mistakable  epistle  was  enclosed  in  a  roll  of  manu- 
script with  enough  extra  stamps  to  have  remailed 
an  Editor : 

44  SIR  :  1  enclose  stamps  for  the  return  of  the 
accompanying  MS.,  *  Miss  Desborough's  Difficul- 
ties,' if  you  do  not  find  it  suitable  for  publication 
in  your  magazine.  My  object  is  remuneration. 

"  Yours  Respectfully, 

"  F.  HODGSON." 

This  was  all  except  the  address,  which  was  that 
of  the  post-office  of  the  neighboring  town.  Both 
Edith  and  herself  were  extremely  proud  of  the 
closing  sentence.  It  sounded  so  business-like. 
And  no  Editor  could  mistake  it.  And  if  this  one 
was  offended  it  positively  could  not  be  helped. 

"  And  it's  true,"  she  said.  "  I  never  should  have 
dreamed  of  sending  a  thing  to  an  Editor  if  I  hadn't 
been  obliged  to.  My  object  is  remuneration." 

And  then  they  could  not  help  breaking  into 
childish  giggles  at  the  comical  aspect  of  their  hav- 
ing done  a  thing  so  bold,  and  their  ideas  of  what 
the  Editor  would  think  if  he  could  see  the  two 
curly  and  innocent  Small  Persons  who  had  written 
that  unflinchingly  mercenary  sentence. 


CHAPTER   XVI. 

And  So  Skc  Did 

IT  is  a  simple  enough  matter  to  send  a  story 
with  a  serene  mind  to  Editors  one  knows,  and  of 
whom  one  is  aware  that  they  possess  the  fine  in- 
tellectual acumen  which  leads  them  to  appreciate 
the  boon  bestowed  upon  them,  and  the  firmness  to 
contemplate  with  some  composure  the  fact  that 
one's  "  object  is  remuneration."  But  it  is  quite  a 
different  affair  to  send  one's  timid  and  defenceless 
first-born  into  the  cave  of  an  unknown  dragon, 
whose  fangs  may  be  dripping  with  the  blood  of 
such  innocents. 

Oh,  the  counting  of  the  hours  which  elapse  be- 
fore it  reaches  its  destination,  and  the  awful  thrill 
of  realizing  that  perhaps  at  the  very  hour  one  is 
living  through,  the  Editor  is  Reading  it !  The 
Small  Person  did  not  lose  any  quakings  or  heart- 
beats to  which  she  was  entitled  by  the  situation. 
She  experienced  them  all  to  the  utmost,  and  even 
invented  some  new  ones.  She,  and  Edith  quaked 
together. 

It  was  so  awful  not  to  know  anything  whatever, 
to  be  so  blankly  ignorant  of  editorial  habits  and 


314     The   One  I  Knew  tlie  Best  of  All 

customs.  How  long  did  an  Editor  keep  a  manu- 
script before  he  accepted  it,  or  put  all  the  stamps 
on  with  a  blow  and  sent  it  back?  Did  he  send  it 
back  the  day  after  he  had  read  it,  or  did  he  keep 
it  for  months  or  years  ?  Might  one  become  old 
and  gray  without  knowing  whether  one's  story 
was  accepted  or  rejected  ?  If  he  accepted  it, 
would  he  send  the  money  at  once  or  would  he 
wait  a  long  time,  and  how  much  would  it  be  when 
it  came  ?  Five  dollars — ten — twenty — a  hundred? 
Could  it  possibly  be  as  much  as  a  hundred  !  And 
if  it  could  be  a  hundred — oh  !  what  things  could  be 
done  with  it,  and  how  every  body  could  live  hap- 
pily forever  after  ! 

"  I  could  write  one  in  a  week,"  the  Small  Per- 
son said.  "  That  would  be  four  hundred  dollars  a 
month  !  Oh  !  no,  Edith,"  breathlessly,  "  it  couldnt 
be  a  hundred  ! '  This  was  because  it  seemed  im- 
possible that  any  one  could  make  four  hundred 
dollars  a  month  by  her  stories  and  really  retain 
her  senses. 

She  felt  it  was  better  to  restrain  such  frenzy  and 
discipline  herself  by  putting  it  as  low  as  possible. 

"  Suppose  it  is  only  about  a  dollar,"  she  said. 
"  I'm  sure  it's  worth  more,  but  they  might  be 
very  stingy.  And  we  want  money  so  much- 
we  are  so  obliged  to  have  it,  that  I  suppose  1 
should  be  forced  to  let  them  have  it  for  a  dollar 
and  even  go  on  writing  more." 


And  So  She  Did  :i> 

«j   »j 

"  It  couldnt  be  as  little  as  that,"  said  Edith. 

"  It  would  be  rather  cheap  even  for  me,"  said 
the  Small  Person,  and  she  began  to  laugh  a  little 
hysterically.  "  A  dollar  story  ! ' 

Then  she  began  to  make  calculations.  She  was 
not  at  all  good  at  calculations. 

"  The  magazine  costs  two  dollars  a  year,"  she 
pondered.  "  And  if  they  have  fifty  thousand  sub- 
scribers, that  would  make  a  hundred  thousand 
dollars  a  year.  They  haven't  many  stories  in  each 
number.  Some  of  the  magazines  have  more 
than  fifty  thousand  subscribers  !  Edith,"  with  a 
little  gasp,  "  suppose  it  was  a  thousand  dollars  ! ' 

They  vibrated  like  pendulums  from  light-head- 
ed ecstacy  to  despair. 

"  They'll  send  it  back,"  she  said,  in  hopeless 
downfall,  "  or  they'll  keep  the  stamps  and  they 
won't  send  it  back  at  all,  and  I  shall  wait  weeks, 
and  weeks,  and  weeks,  and  never  know  anything 
about  it.  And  all  this  thinking  and  hoping  and 
contriving  will  have  gone  for  worse  than  noth- 


ing  ! ' 


She  ended  with  tears  in  her  eyes,  half-laughing 
at  herself  because  they  were  there,  and  she  was 
an  emotional  Small  Person,  who  had  also  a  sense 
of  the  humor  of  her  own  exaggerations.  She  was 
a  creature  who  laughed  a  great  deal,  and  was 
much  given  to  making  her  sisters  and  brothers 
laugh.  She  liked  to  say  ridiculous  things  and  ex- 


316     Tke   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

aggerate  her  views  of  a  situation  until  they  be- 
came grotesque  and  she  was  obliged  to  laugh 
wildly  at  them  herself.  "  The  family's  Ups  and 
the  family's  Downs  '  were  a  source  of  unbridled 
jokes  which  still  had  a  touch  of  usefulness  in  them. 

"  I  laugh  instead  of  crying,"  she  used  to  say. 
4<  There  is  some  fun  in  laughing  and  there  isn't 
any  in  crying,  and  it  is  ridiculous  in  one  way." 

She  made  many  of  these  rueful  jokes  in  the 
days  that  followed.  It  seemed  as  if  these  were 
months  of  days  and  the  tension  became  more 
than  was  bearable.  It  is  likely  that  only  a  few 
weeks  passed. 

But  at  last — at  last  something  came.  Not  the 
manuscript  with  all  the  stamps  in  a  row,  but  a 
letter. 

And  she  and  Edith  and  Mamma  and  Edwina 
sat  down  panting  to  read  it. 

And  when  it  was  read  they  could  not  under- 
stand it ! 

The  letter  was  not  preserved,  but  the  memory 
of  the  impression  it  created  preserved  itself. 

Somehow  it  seemed  strangely  vague  to  their 
inexperienced  minds.  It  began — thank  God — by 
praising  the  story.  It  seemed  to  like  it.  It 
plainly  did  not  despise  it  at  all.  Its  sole  criti- 
cisms were  on  the  unceremonious  abbreviation  of 
a  name,  and  an  intimation  that  it  was  rather  long. 
It  did  not  say  it  was  refused,  but  neither  Edith 


And  So  She  Did  317 

nor  the  Small  Person  were  at  all  sure  that  it  meant 
that  it  was  accepted,  and  it  said  nothing  about 
the  Remuneration. 

"  Have  they  accepted  it?  "  said  the  Small  Per- 
son. 

"  They  haven't  rejected  it,"  said  Edith. 

"  They  evidently  think  it  is  rather  good,"  said 
Mamma. 

"  I  don't  know  exactly  what  they  mean,"  the 
Small  Person  finally  decided,  "  but  I  believe  it 
has  something  to  do  with  the  Remuneration." 

Perhaps  it  had,  and  perhaps  it  had  not.  Per- 
haps greater  experience  might  have  been  able  to 
reach  something  technical  in  it  they  could  not 
see.  They  read  and  re-read  it,  thought  and  rea- 
soned, and  invented  translations.  But  the  only 
conclusion  they  could  reach  was  that  perhaps  Re- 
muneration not  being  the  Editor's  object,  was  his 
objection,  and  that  he  thought  that  by  adroit  en- 
couragement and  discouragement  he  might  ob- 
tain the  prize  without  the  Object. 

So  after  a  little  waiting  the  Small  Person  wrote 
to  ask  for  its  return.  In  after  years  she  was  fre- 
quently puzzled  by  her  memory  of  that  first  letter. 
She  never  knew  what  it  had  meant.  Experience 
taught  her  that  it  was  curiously  unbusiness-like, 
and  inclined  her  to  believe  that  in  some  way  it 
was  meant  to  convey  that  the  objection  was  the 
Remuneration. 


318     The   One  /  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

Then  the  story  was  sent  to  another  Editor. 

"  I'll  try  two  or  three  times,"  the  Author  said 
to  Edith.  "  I  won't  give  up  the  first  minute,  but 
1  won't  keep  on  forever.  If  they  don't  want  it, 
that  must  mean  that  it  isn't  good  enough." 

The  story — whose  real  name  was  not  "  Miss  Des- 
borough's  Difficulties,"  but  something  rather  like 
it — was  one  she  had  planned  and  partially  written 
in  her  thirteenth  year,  in  the  Square.  One  or  two 
cherished  scenes  she  had  written  in  the  old  ac- 
count-books. Many  years  later,  on  being  ex- 
humed from  among  old  magazines  in  the  Con- 
gressional Library,  and  read  again,  it  revealed 
itself  quite  a  respectable,  but  not  in  the  least  strik- 
ing, story  of  love,  estrangement,  and  reconcilia- 
tion between  a  stately  marvel  of  English  young- 
lady  beauty  and  good-breeding,  and  the  stalwart, 
brave,  and  masculine  British  officer,  who  was 
separated  and  suffered  with  her  in  high-bred  dig- 
nity and  fine  endurance.  It  was  an  evident- 
though  unconscious — echo  of  like  stories  in  Corn- 
hill^  Temple  Bar,  and  London  Society.  The  Small 
Person  had  been  much  attached  to  these  periodi- 
cals. Its  meritorious  features  were  a  certain  real- 
ity of  feeling  in  the  people  who  lived  in  it,  and  a 
certain  nice  quality  in  the  feeling  itself.  How- 
ever trifling  and  romantic  the  plot,  the  officer 
was  a  nice  fellow  and  a  gentleman,  the  beauteous 
English  maiden  had  good  manners,  and  her 


And  So  She  Did  319 

friends,  the  young-married  people,  were  sympa- 
thetic and  sweet-tempered.  It  moved  with  some 
dramatic  touch  and  had  an  air  of  conviction. 
Otherwise  it  had  no  particular  qualities  or  origi- 
nality. 

Did  months  elapse  again  before  they  heard 
from  the  second  Editor — or  was  it  years?  Per- 
haps it  was  only  weeks,  but  they  contained  sev- 
eral protracted  lifetimes. 

And  then  !  Another  letter  !  Not  the  manu- 
script yet ! 

"  SIR  :  (They  were  immensely  edified  at  being 
called  Sir.)  Your  story,  *  Miss  Desborough's  Dif- 
ficulties,' is  so  distinctly  English  that  our  reader 
is  not  sure  of  its  having  been  written  by  an 
American.  We  see  that  the  name  given  us  for 
the  address  is  not  that  of  the  writer.  (The  Sa- 
maritan friend  had  lent  his  name — that  the  mail 
might  evade  the  Boys.)  Will  you  kindly  inform 
us  if  the  story  is  original  ? 

"  Yours,  truly,"  etc. 

This  was  the  letter  in  effect.  It  would  be  im- 
possible to  recall  the  exact  words. 

Shaken  to  the  centre  of  her  being  the  Small 
Person  replied  by  the  next  mail. 

"  The  story  is  original.  I  am  English  myself, 
and  have  only  been  a  short  time  in  America." 


320     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  AIL 

The  Editor  replied  quite  promptly : 

"  Before  we  decide  will  you  send  us  another 
story  ?  " 

How  they  were  elated  almost  to  delirium ! 
How  delighted  Mamma's  smile  was  !  How  the 
two  unliterary  ones  exulted  and  danced  about. 

"  It  will  be  Accepted !  It  will  be  Accepted  ! 
It  will  be  Accepted ! '  they  danced  about  exclaim- 
ing. 

"  Perhaps  the  Editor  will  buy  them  both  ! "  said 
Edith.  "  That  will  be  two  instead  of  one  ! ' 

The  Small  Person  went  up  to  the  raftered 
room  positively  trembling  with  joy  and  excite- 
ment. The  Editor  did  not  believe  she  had  writ- 
ten her  own  story.  He  would  not  believe  it  until 
she  wrote  another.  He  would  see !  She  would 
show  him  ! 

The  little  cat  lay  curled  up  in  her  arm  for  three 
days,  seeming  lulled  by  the  endless  scratching  of 
the  pen.  She  said  nothing,  but  perhaps  in  some 
occult  feline  way  she  was  assisting.  The  Small 
Person's  cheeks  blazed  hotter  and  hotter.  She 
felt  as  if  she  were  running  a  race  for  life  or  death. 
But  she  was  not  tired.  She  was  strung  up  to  the 
highest  and  intensest  pitch.  The  Story  was  good 
to  her.  Her  best  beloved,  who  had  stood  by  her 
all  her  vivid  short  life — making  dull  things  bright 
and  bright  things  brilliant — who  had  touched  the 
face  of  all  the  world  with  a  tender,  shining  hand 


And  So  She  Did  321 

-who  had  never  deserted  her — did  not  desert 
her  now.  Faithful  and  dear  fair  shadow  of 
things,  how  passionately  she  loved  it !  In  three 
days  the  new  story  was  finished.  It  was  shorter 
than  "  Miss  Desborough,"  but  she  knew  it  was  as 
good,  and  that  the  Editor  would  see  it  was  writ- 
ten by  the  same  hand.  But  she  made  it  an  Ameri- 
can story  without  a  touch  of  English  coloring. 
And  the  grapes  had  brought  enough  money  for 
more  postage-stamps. 

She  did  not  walk  for  the  next  few  days — she 
danced.  She  chased  about  the  woods  wildly, 
gathering  more  flowers  and  leaves  and  following 
more  birds  than  ever.  Sometimes  when  she  went 
to  the  hollow  in  the  road  she  felt  as  if  she  might 
be  lifted  from  her  feet  by  the  strange  exhilaration 
within  her,  and  carried  away  over  the  variegated 
tree-tops  into  the  blue. 

Her  stories  were  of  some  use  after  all.  They 
were  not  altogether  things  to  be  laughed  at  be- 
cause they  were  Romantic.  Somehow  she  felt 
almost  as  if  she  were  vindicating  and  exalting  a 
friend  who  had  been  kind  and  tender,  and  yet 
despised.  Ah,  how  good  it  was  !  If  all  would  go 
well — if  she  might  go  on — if  she  need  be  ashamed 
no  longer — but  write  openly  as  many  stories  as 
she  liked — how  good  to  be  alive !  She  was  so 
young  and  ardent,  she  knew  nothing  and  believed 
everything.  It  might  have  been  arranged  by  Fort- 

21 


322     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 

une  that  she  should  get  the  fullest,  finest  flavor 
of  it.  When  the  answer  came  they  were  passing 
through  one  of  "  the  Family's  Downs."  That 
was  their  manner  of  describing  the  periods  when 
everything  seemed  at  its  worst ;  when  even  the 
Boys,  who  were  robustly  life-enjoying  creatures 
wished  "  something  would  turn  up."  Nothing  is 
more  trying  than  to  feel  that  one's  sole  hope  is 
that  "  something  may  turn  up."  The  something 
usually  turns  down. 

And  on  one  of  these  days  the  Letter  came. 
Standing  by  a  table  in  the  bare  little  room,  the 
Small  Person  opened  it  with  quivering  hands, 
while  Mamma  and  Edith  looked  tremblingly  on. 

She  read  it,  rather  weakly,  aloud. 

"SiR:xWe  have  decided  to  accept  your  two 
stories,  and  enclose  payment.  Fifteen  dollars  for 
'  Aces  or  Clubs,'  and  twenty  dollars  for  '  Miss  Des- 
borough's  Difficulties.'  We  shall  be  glad  to  hear 

from  you  again. 

"  Yours,  truly,"  etc. 

She  gave  a  little  hysterical  laugh,  which  was 

half  a  gasp. 

«  They— they've  accepted  it,"  she  said,  rather 
obviously  to  Edith,  "  and  they've  sent  me  thirty- 
five  dollars." 

"  Well,  my    dear,"  said    Mamma,  quite   tremu- 


And  So  She  Did  323 

lously,  "  they  really  were  very  nice  tales.  I  could 
not  help  thinking  so." 

"  They  are  Accepted,"  cried  Edith,  quite  shrill 
with  ecstasy.  "  And  they  will  take  more.  And 
you  can  go  on  writing  them  all  your  life." 

And  just  at  that  moment — as  if  it  had  been  ar- 
ranged like  a  scene  in  a  play,  one  of  the  Boys 
came  in.  It  was  the  elder  one,  and  rather  an  inti- 
mate of  the  Small  Person,  of  whom  he  was  really 
quite  fond,  though  he  considered  her  Romantic, 
and  having  a  strong  sense  of  humor,  his  witticisms 
on  the  subject  of  the  stories  had  been  well  worth 
hearing. 

"  What's  up?"  he  said.  "What  is  the  matter 
with  you  all  ?  ' 

"  Come  out  on  the  Porch,"  said  the  Small  Per- 
son. 

Why  she  was  suddenly  overwhelmed  with  a 
sort  of  shyness,  which  embraced  even  Mamma 
and  Edith,  she  could  not  have  told. 

"  Well,"  he  said,  when  they  stood  outside. 

"  I've  just  had  a  letter,"  said  the  Small  Person, 
awkwardly.  "  It's — it's  from  an  Editor." 

"An  Editor!"  he  repeated.  "What  does  that 
mean  ? ' 

"  I  sent  him  one  of  my  stories,"  she  went  on, 
feeling  that  she  was  getting  red.  "  And  he 
wouldn't  believe  1  had  written  it,  and  he  wrote 
and  asked  me  to  send  another,  I  suppose  to  prove 


324     The   One  I  Knew  the  Best  of  All 


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\ 


I  could  do  it.  And  I  wrote  another — and  sent  it. 
And  he  has  accepted  them  both,  and  sent  me 
thirty-five  dollars." 

"  Thirty-five  dollars!'    he  exclaimed,  staring  at 
her. 


And  So  Sh-e  Did  325 

"  Yes,"  she  answered.     "  Here's  the  check." 

And  she  held  it  out  to  him. 

He  took  it  and  looked  at  it,  and  broke  into  a 
good-natured,  delighted,  boyish  laugh. 

"  Well,  by  Jove  ! '  said  he,  looking  at  her,  half- 
amused  and  half-amazed.  "That's  first -class, 
isn't  it?  By  Jove!" 

"  Yes,"  she  said,  "  it  is.  And  they  want  some 
more.  And  I  am  going  to  write  some — as  many 
as  I  can — a  whole  lot ! ' 

And  so  she  did. 

But  she  had  crossed  the  delicate,  impalpable 
dividing  line.  And  after  that,  Life  itself  began, 
and  memories  of  her  lose  the  meaning  which  at- 
taches itself  to  the  memories  of  the  Mind  of  a 
Child. 


THE   END.